MUSE in Focus: Addressing Gun Violence. A selection of recent scholarship from Project MUSE publishers on gun violence, its effect throughout the culture and its possible solution

Gun violence remains a pervasive public health crisis in the United States. As the country grows all too familiar with the cycle of violence, mourning, and inaction that takes place after any mass shooting, evidence-based research from experts and scholars is essential for any meaningful policy solutions to take place. In this spirit, and in collaboration with our publishers, we have compiled a list of select content on Project MUSE that addresses the complex challenge of gun violence.

“MUSE in Focus: Addressing Gun Violence” is a selection of recent scholarship from Project MUSE publishers on gun violence, its effect throughout the culture, and its possible solutions. Our hope is that bringing these pieces together will help to inform the policymakers responsible for solving this crisis, as well as to educate researchers and other concerned citizens who seek evidence-based work on this topic.

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Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis
Edited by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick. Foreword by Michael R. Bloomberg
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013
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Amid a growing consensus that the staggering toll of gun violence in the United States is an urgent public health issue, the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health has convened experts on gun policy and violence from the United States and selected other countries to summarize relevant research and its implications for policymakers and concerned citizens. Legal scholars weigh in on the constitutionality of recommended policies, and researchers present new data on public support for a wide array of policies designed to reduce gun violence. Collected for the first time in one volume, this reliable, empirical research and legal analysis will inform the policy debate by helping lawmakers and opinion leaders identify the policy changes that are most likely to reduce gun violence in the United States. Researchers draw on new and existing studies on U.S. gun policies to demonstrate both the weaknesses of current federal gun policies and the efficacy of various state laws designed to reduce firearm availability to high-risk groups. By analyzing scientific and legal data, the contributors provide evidence in support of enhanced regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers, background checks for private sales, and purchaser licensing. Lessons from bans of assault weapons and of large-capacity magazines for guns are considered, as is the promise of “smart guns,” which could be fired only by authorized users. Compelling case studies from Australia, Scotland, and Brazil demonstrate effective policy responses to gun violence that have led to significant reductions in gun-related deaths. The book concludes with data on public support for strengthening gun laws and Second Amendment considerations.

Updated Evidence and Policy Developments on Reducing Gun Violence in America
Edited by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014
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In 2013—in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School—Johns Hopkins University Press published Reducing Gun Violence in America, a collection of essays written by the world’s leading experts on gun violence. Updated Evidence and Policy Developments on Reducing Gun Violence in America follows up on the state of American gun violence by analyzing new data, research, and policy developments one year after Sandy Hook. Over the course of ten substantive chapter addendums, contributors bring readers up-to-date on such varied topics as mental illness, domestic violence, background checks, illegal gun sales, and personalized guns. They describe the recent policy measures that have been enacted and suggest additional approaches that may help stem the violence. An essential companion to Reducing Gun Violence in America, the reliable, empirical research and legal analysis in this e-book will help lawmakers, opinion leaders, and concerned citizens identify policy changes to address gun violence, which takes an average of more than 80 lives every day in the United States.

Private Guns, Public Health, New Ed.
by David Hemenway
University of Michigan Press, 2017
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On an average day in the United States, guns are used to kill over ninety people and wound about three hundred more; yet such facts are accepted as a natural consequence of supposedly high American rates of violence. Private Guns, Public Health reveals the advantages of treating gun violence as a consumer safety and public health problem—an approach that emphasizes prevention over punishment and that has successfully reduced the rates of injury and death from infectious disease, car accidents, and tobacco consumption.

Hemenway fair-mindedly and authoritatively outlines a policy course that would significantly reduce gun-related injury and death, pointing us toward a solution.

Guns in Law
Edited by Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merrill Umphrey
University of Massachusetts Press, 2019
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Weapons have been a source of political and legal debate for centuries. Aristotle considered the possession of arms a fundamental source of political power and wrote that tyrants "mistrust the people and deprive them of their arms." Today ownership of weapons -- whether handguns or military-grade assault weapons -- poses more acute legal problems than ever before. In this volume, the editors' introduction traces the history of gun control in the United States, arguing that until the 1980s courts upheld reasonable gun control measures. The contributors confront urgent questions, among them the usefulness of history as a guide in ongoing struggles over gun regulation, the changing meaning of the Second Amendment, the perspective of law enforcement on guns and gun control law, and individual and relational perspectives on gun rights. The contributors include the editors and Carl T. Bogus, Jennifer Carlson, Saul Cornell, Darrell A.H. Miller, Laura Beth Nielsen, and Katherine Shaw.

Good Guys With Guns: The Appeals and Consequences of Concealed Carry
by Angela Stroud
University of North Carolina Press, 2016
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Although the rate of gun ownership in U.S. households has declined from an estimated 50 percent in 1970 to approximately 32 percent today, Americans' propensity for carrying concealed firearms has risen sharply in recent years. Today, more than 11 million Americans hold concealed handgun licenses, an increase from 4.5 million in 2007. Yet, despite increasing numbers of firearms and expanding opportunities for gun owners to carry concealed firearms in public places, we know little about the reasons for obtaining a concealed carry permit or what a publicly armed citizenry means for society. Angela Stroud draws on in-depth interviews with permit holders and on field observations at licensing courses to understand how social and cultural factors shape the practice of obtaining a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Stroud's subjects usually first insist that a gun is simply a tool for protection, but she shows how much more the license represents: possessing a concealed firearm is a practice shaped by race, class, gender, and cultural definitions that separate "good guys" from those who represent threats.

Stroud's work goes beyond the existing literature on guns in American culture, most of which concentrates on the effects of the gun lobby on public policy and perception. Focusing on how respondents view the world around them, this book demonstrates that the value gun owners place on their firearms is an expression of their sense of self and how they see their social environment.

The Second Amendment on Trial: Critical Essays on District of Columbia v. Heller
Edited by Saul A. Cornell and Nathan Kozuskanich
University of Massachusetts Press, 2013
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University of Massachusetts Press, 2013 On the final day of its 2008 term, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-to-4 decision striking down the District of Columbia’s stringent gun control laws as a violation of the Second Amendment. Reversing almost seventy years of settled precedent, the high court reinterpreted the meaning of the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” to affirm an individual right to own a gun in the home for purposes of self-defense. The landmark ruling not only opened a new chapter in the contentious history of gun rights and gun control but also revealed both the strengths and problems of originalist constitutional theory and jurisprudence. This volume brings together some of the best scholarship on the Heller case, with essays by legal scholars and historians representing a range of ideological viewpoints and applying different interpretive frameworks. Following the editors’ introduction, which describes the issues involved and the arguments on each side, the essays are organized into four sections. The first includes two of the most important historical briefs filed in the case, while the second offers different views of the role of originalist theory. Section three presents opposing interpretations of the ruling and its relationship to modern constitutional doctrine. The final section explores historical research post-Heller, including new findings on patterns of gun ownership in colonial and Revolutionary America. In addition to the editors, contributors include Nelson Lund, Joyce Lee Malcolm, Jack Rakove, Reva B. Siegel, Cass R. Sunstein, Kevin M. Sweeney, and J. Harvey Wilkinson III.

After Gun Violence: Deliberation and Memory in an Age of Political Gridlock
by Craig Rood
Penn State University Press, 2019
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Mass shootings have become the “new normal” in American life. The same can be said for the public debate that follows a shooting: blame is cast, political postures are assumed, but no meaningful policy changes are enacted. In After Gun Violence, Craig Rood argues that this cycle is the result of a communication problem. Without advocating for specific policies, Rood examines how Americans talk about gun violence and suggests how we might discuss the issues more productively and move beyond our current, tragic impasse. Exploring the ways advocacy groups, community leaders, politicians, and everyday citizens talk about gun violence, Rood reveals how the gun debate is about far more than just guns. He details the role of public memory in shaping the discourse, showing how memories of the victims of gun violence, the Second Amendment, and race relations influence how gun policy is discussed. In doing so, Rood argues that forgetting and misremembering this history leads interest groups and public officials to entrenched positions and political failure and drives the public further apart. Timely and innovative, After Gun Violence advances our understanding of public discourse in an age of gridlock by illustrating how public deliberation and public memory shape and misshape one another. It is a search to understand why public discourse fails and how we can do better.


The Underground Gun Market: Implications for Regulation and Enforcement
Issue Editors: Philip J. Cook, Harold A. Pollack
RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences
Volume 3, Number 5, October 2017
Russell Sage Foundation
Fingers on Our Pulse: Engaging Orlando’s Aftermath and Futurity
QED: A journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking
Volume 3, Number 3, Fall 2016
Michigan State University Press


“From the Editorial Board: On Arming K-12 Teachers”
by Lana M. Minshew
The High School Journal
Volume 101, Number 3, Spring 2018
University of North Carolina Press
“Rhetorical Studies and the Gun Debate: A Public Policy Perspective”
by J. Michael Hogan and Craig Rood
Rhetoric & Public Affairs
Volume 18, Number 2, Summer 2015
Michigan State University Press
“The Case for Moderate Gun Control”
by David DeGrazia
Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal
Volume 24, Number 1, March 2014
Johns Hopkins University Press
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In addressing the shape of appropriate gun policy, this essay assumes for the sake of discussion that there is a legal and moral right to private gun ownership. My thesis is that, against the background of this right, the most defensible policy approach in the United States would feature moderate gun control. The first section summarizes the American gun control status quo and characterizes what I call “moderate gun control.” The next section states and rebuts six leading arguments against this general approach to gun policy. The section that follows presents a positive case for moderate gun control that emphasizes safety in the home and society as well as rights whose enforcement entails some limits or qualifications on the right to bear arms. A final section shows how the recommended gun regulations address legitimate purposes, rather than imposing arbitrary restrictions on gun rights, and offers concluding reflections.

“Reading with Guns: Institutions of Interpretation and District of Columbia v. Heller”
by John Frow
New Literary History
Volume 47, Number 1, Winter 2016
Johns Hopkins University Press
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Described as ‘the most explicitly and self-consciously originalist opinion in the history of the [United States] Supreme Court’, District of Columbia v. Heller, decided in 2008 on a 5/4 split, embodies many of the central problems of a historically oriented legal hermeneutics. Antonin Scalia’s invocation of an unchanging constitutional text and a purity of reconstruction of an original meaning belies the intensity of social and political interests that inform the judicial decision-making process. This paper looks at the interpretive principles at stake in the controversy over the court’s account of the Second Amendment’s deeply ambiguous enunciation of the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Against the historicism that constitutes the unexamined norm of originalist interpretation, I argue that texts have no privileged “original meaning” but change their meanings as they acquire new purposes and uses. Second, I seek to specify the institutional underpinnings of the regime of interpretation that effects the translation of past texts into present structures of interest. In the broad sense in which I define it here, the interpretive regime is not just a matter of the rules of a discursive game but is effected by a mix of material, political, and disciplinary infrastructures that make those rules binding upon a particular interpretive community. Finally, I examine the play of blindness and insight that constitutes, in this case and more generally, the rhetorical condition of possibility for the establishment of a truth which then defines and enacts a reality.

“Facing Moloch: Barack Obama’s National Eulogies and Gun Violence”
by David A. Frank
Rhetoric & Public Affairs
Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 2014
Michigan State University Press
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During his first term as president, Barack Obama delivered four national eulogies at the sites of gun violence tragedies, two of which garnered considerable national attention: one delivered in Tucson, Arizona on January 12, 2011 (following the attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and an assembled crowd), and another in Newtown, Connecticut on December 16, 2012 (following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School). The deaths of innocents, the result of a host of causes, required the president to face the issue of gun violence, help the nation work through the trauma, and create the conditions of civility necessary for policy action. At Tucson, Obama drew from the book of Job to explain that the evil in Tucson happened “for reasons that defy human understanding.” In his Newtown address, Obama replaced the more fatalistic theology of his Tucson memorial with a spirit of perseverance and renewal rooted in 2 Corinthians. In this essay, I suggest that Obama’s eulogy at Newtown serves as a counterpart to the call Obama advanced in the Tucson address. I argue that, though the messages embedded in the Tucson speech serve as a legitimate theological and epistemological check on the presumptions of reason, the Newtown address better met the aspirations of civility because it led to a consideration of policies designed to reduce gun violence.

“The Second Amendment as Demanding Subject: Figuring the Marginalized Subject in Demands for an Unbridled Second Amendment”
by Laura J. Collins
Rhetoric & Public Affairs
Volume 17, Number 4, Winter 2014
Michigan State University Press
“Look to the Crisis Actors”
by Meredith Conti
Theatre Journal
Volume 70, Number 4, December 2018
Johns Hopkins University Press
“Gun Control in America: An Autopsy Report”
by Charles W. Collier
Volume 60, Number 3, Summer 2013
University of Pennsylvania Press
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Last year came news about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, at the hands of a nervous neighborhood vigilante. More recently, a graduate student in neuroscience named James Holmes opened fire in a Colorado theater with an array of advanced weaponry, killing twelve and wounding fifty-eight. And on a cold and clear December morning in Connecticut, a former high school honors student methodically executed twenty unsuspecting schoolchildren and seven adults with "a semiautomatic rifle that is similar to weapons used by troops in Afghanistan." These events have been described as "tragic"—and so they are, though not in the sense usually meant. The tragedy is not that something awful and terrible happened that should never have happened. The tragedy is that something awful and terrible happened that was, and is, supposed to happen. This is in keeping with the original Greek meaning; in Whitehead's gloss, "the essence of dramatic tragedy . . . resides in . . . the remorseless working of things . . .[the] inevitableness of destiny." Usually, this tragedy goes unremarked until it is too late; so in this essay I try to render it blindingly salient.