How “shall issue” expanded despite the odds against it
June 1, 2010
by Joseph P. Tartaro
If you consider yourself part of America’s gun culture, as most Gun Week readers likely do, do you count yourself as part of the “old gun culture” or the “new gun culture?” They are distinct segments of society according to a remarkable new book by Brian Anse Patrick, PhD, an associate professor of communication at the University of Toledo in Ohio. The book is called Rise of the Anti-Media (See italic paragraph below for the full title and other details) and it traces how the “shall-issue” concealed carry movement has succeeded so sweepingly in just the last 20-25 years despite all the establishment opposition and an adverse political climate.
Patrick, who spoke at the 2009 Gun Rights Policy Conference, teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in research methods, group communication, propaganda and persuasion. His honors seminars“Propaganda, Social Control and Social Science” and “American Gun Policy”rank among the most popular courses in his university’s honors program.
If Patrick is a specialist, it is in mass communications field, and that is the new dimension his book differs from the writings of others who have examined the gun issue from such perspectives as history, law, politics, criminology, economics and philosophy. He deals with those, too, through his research and his direct communications with some of the giants in the field: Marion Hammer, Don B. Kates (even Kates’ parrot), Stephen Halbrook and others.
His focus on the communications necessary for a persuasive social movement lays bare the flaws of the anti-gun establishment, and simultaneously shines a new light on the anti-media used by gun rights activists to win surprising political victories in state after state (See related Iowa story).
The book includes three charts. One is based on his analysis and quantification of the imbalance between pro- and anti-gun media coverage of the gun issue. Another illustrates how the elite establishment and media use a top down informational model like that of the Roman Catholic Church, while horizontal interpretive communities, like the right-to-carry movement, disseminate information almost in a 360 degree pattern, using the Internet, newsletters, meetings and other communications techniques.
Patrick defines the old gun culture as being largely comprised of hobbyist hunters, arms collectors and target shooters, who traditionally were concerned with just keeping and enjoying their guns in a very hostile political atmosphere. The old gun culture were joiners at the local, state and national levels who guided such venerable organizations as the National Rifle Association (NRA) before 1977 and the old United States Revolver Association (USRA). He traces that history back to a time when the NRA was concerned almost exclusively with rifle marksmanship, while the smaller USRA focused on handgun competitions. Neither were terribly concerned about concealed carry. In fact Patrick recalls the “restricted era,” when most states had banned concealed carry for 150 years or where licensing was discretionary if it existed at all. In 1920s, any discussion of concealed carry laws tended to focus on the proposed Uniform Firearms Code scheme which required “good cause”.for the issuance of a CCW.
In Chapter 2, “Energizing the new American Gun Culture,” Patrick examines the so-called gun control paradox that highlights the logical irreconcilability between survey results (in the 1960s and 70s) and then current political reality. He restates the paradox thus: “Why…is there not severe gun control in America or a mass movement for gun control, seeing the public so desires gun control as evidenced by surveys since the 1960s?”
Of course, more recent surveys show a lessened public appetite for gun control, a greater appreciation of firearms ownership for defense, and still there is no mass movement in support of more gun restrictions. He notes that millions who join the NRA and other gun groups and there is no public membership in the anti-gun organizations, which are to-down informational conduits.
Patrick reassures his readers that despite sensationalist media headlines and the claims of the anti-gunners, the new era of “shall-issue” licensed concealed carry “does not translate into firearms anarchy; quite the reverse. There are plenty of carefully crafted laws still regulating concealed carry as well as thousands of other federal and state laws.”
He also follows that up in other chapters when he reports that all of the dire predictions concerning “shall-issue” laws offered by the elite establishment media and the anti-gun hierarchy have never been realized.
While he does quote John Lott’s More Guns=Less Crime, Patrick concludes that there is not yet enough evidence that shall issue laws have significantly altered crime statistics either up or down. However, they have empowered millions, and attracted previously excluded or alienated segments of the public who have been educated and have joined the pro-gun cause. These newcomers are often motivated by reasoning that might be alien to the old gun cultureand even the early waves of the new gun culture. He includes among the latest members of the new gun culture, women, young urban professionals, minorities, youth (Students for Concealed Carry on Campus), and gays (Pink Pistols).
How did right to carry sweep into so many states?
“Denied meaningful television and mainstream news access that the civil rights movement had enjoyed in abundance, however, the gun-rights movement grew their own anti-media, and as computer-mediated communication technology became available these gun-rights covenants, especially concerning concealed carry, quickly came to exist more and more on line….Both movements also mobilized and permanently energized large numbers of people who otherwise would quite probably never have become active in the politics of social movement,” Patrick writes.
If there is any fault with this valuable addition to the pro-gun literature, it is the high price, something common to books published for university level scholarship. But I see no reason why the value of his instructive examination of the gun issue should be limited to ivory towers. It belongs in every public library in America, and it makes sense to me that groups of gun rights activists get together to buy a copy to share and refer back to.
There is a lot to be learned by Patrick’s review of how and why gun attitudes were as they were, and how and why we got to where we are today. Media professionals could learn from it, too. Their mistakes in talking down to the public and feeding slanted news and commentary have been exposed. After all, Patrick’s book is not just about the Second Amendment, but “how the concealed carry movement succeeded through behaviors that embodied the First Amendment’s social action schematic,” as envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
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