The recent mass shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest in modern U.S. history. When these horrific events take place, the aftermath is almost predictable – pitting pro-gun control advocates against Second Amendment champions.
Wake Forest University Sociology Professor David Yamane is an author and gun owner who writes the blog Gun Culture 2.0. He's spent the last several years closely studying the grey area between the two camps and spoke with WFDD's David Ford.
One of the problems with the way we talk about guns is that we have people on either extreme whose minds are already made up. They either think that we should just get rid of guns, or they think that there should be absolutely no restriction on guns because those would be futile. But there is also, I believe, a broad and deep middle of people who want to do something about the problems, but don't necessarily know how to get there. I think those are the people who need to be much more brought into the conversation. But we run up against the realities of our political system which is, at this point in time, highly divisive. So, I don't think it's an either/or issue for the population of the country, but it does become an either/or issue because of the structure of our politics and the way people are becoming increasingly polarized at the highest levels of governance.
David Yamane: I feel I have a unique perspective [on this] having grown up in California in my blue bubble and going to school at the University of California Berkeley, and then [University of] Wisconsin in Madison—more blue bubbles—and not having any exposure to guns until I moved to North Carolina a little over ten years ago. So, I had no idea what guns were, how they worked, why people had them–a fairly standard, anti-gun perspective–because for me they had no value, and the only use I saw was criminal use. The thing that people who come from that perspective fail to appreciate is that for people who own guns, they do get use out of them. They get pleasure out of them. They get a sense of security out of them. They connect them to family traditions. There are many, many different reasons for people to legally and legitimately own guns in ways that are not at all harmful to other people.
DY: I would have to think about that parallel and what would be the equivalent type of action in the world of gun regulation. There are already a lot of regulations in place that are designed to keep people who shouldn't have guns from having guns. It might have something to do with the level of infringement on people's rights. So, for the government to insist that you take off your shoes and put them back on is not as large an infringement as the government saying, "Actually, now you can't have that kind of gun."
DY: Permits are a tricky issue because permits in the past have been used to prevent people from purchasing firearms for unjust reasons. For example, North Carolina has a pistol permit system that was put in place in order to prevent African-Americans from buying guns. I don't know that there's actual evidence today that permitting is used to discriminate against people racially, but I think there should be a general consideration of that and whether those policies could evolve into those kind of discriminatory systems. Permits are an additional burden on the ability to acquire firearms easily, [but] that may be a burden that is an effective one, and not so much of a burden as to become unconstitutional. In fact, it's existed in North Carolina for decades now and has not been challenged on constitutional grounds. So, there are many gun control regulations that are perfectly acceptable under constitutional rulings.