Amongst the Savages

posted on June 1, 2015

The days are rapidly drawing to a close in which anthropologists and other social scientists would strike out into the most remote corners of the world, seeking to document and explain the cultures of people who in many cases lived with technology out of the Stone Age. Now the African and Australian bush, the vast chains of Pacific islands, and the murky depths of the Amazon have been opened to us. There is less and less to study that is truly exotic, truly strange to our sensibilities.

Some social scientists are dealing with this shortfall by turning to another unexplored frontier: Middle America. Here the natives exist in something close to a state of nature, guns strapped to their hips and stockpiled in their homes. Why do these odd savages live this way, and how do they manage not to wipe each other out in a flurry of vendettas and honor killings?

Believe it or not, this seems to be the current view of many in academia—particularly the elite coastal institutions. The motivations of ordinary American gun owners strike these professors as so inexplicable that they demand the attention of experts in order to explain. Every month a new monograph or journal article appears on “masculinity and frontier violence” or “working-class white rage.”The motivations of ordinary American gun owners strike these professors as so inexplicable that they demand the attention of experts in order to explain.

In order to write his book, Gun Crusaders: The NRA’s Culture War, Professor Scott Melzer took the daring step of actually joining the NRA so that members would give him the inside scoop on their opinions. Day 32: I have finally succeeded in gaining the natives’ trust.

It’s not that everything being churned out about gun owners and gun culture in the academic world is automatically bad—anthropologist Abigail Kohn’s book Shooters was welcomed by many as a sensitive and open-minded study. It’s that it represents the vanguard of a whole school of pseudo-intellectual opinion. Browse the comments of a gun-related post on Gawker or HuffPo (not recommended except for research purposes), and you’ll find a den of dime-store psychologists who know all about our economic and educational backwardness, our paranoia, our feelings of sexual inadequacy. As Colion Noir pointed out recently, all of their theorizing is putting a sophisticated face on what boils down to juvenile name-calling.

As far as these “experts” are concerned, the only people who own guns are rural or suburban white males: If you don’t fit into this category, you don’t really count. These self-made “social scientists” are willfully blind to the surge of interest in guns among women and African-Americans. They want to consign the concept of gun ownership to a demographic they don’t interact with much and don’t feel the need to defend. It isn’t convenient for them to think that anyone “cool” might be a gun owner.

This proves why we need to speak out and be proud of our ownership and usage of firearms. But it also demonstrates how out of touch many of our nation’s self-appointed intellectual leaders are. Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters: We’re the majority. We’re the cultural baseline. We don’t buy guns because of some psychological or cultural abnormality. We do it because we want to be safe. We use them to hunt and feed our families. Sometimes, strange as it may seem, we even just like to send some lead downrange.

What are our reasons for owning guns? Frankly, we think they’re pretty obvious. So what does that say about a subculture that finds us so baffling that we need to be studied and dissected, to have our unique pathology classified?

Did it ever occur to them that they’re the weird ones?


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