UA Hosts Gun Studies Symposium and Keynote Panel on the American Gun Debate

Space permitting, students and faculty may be able to attend the full conference. If you are interested, please contact Jennifer Carlson at

The University of Arizona is hosting a symposium on Gun Studies on Oct. 20, 2017. National experts from the UA, Duke, Harvard, University of Berkeley, Columbia University, Virginia Tech, and elsewhere will gather to discuss gun politics, gun culture and gun violence. The symposium will take a uniquely interdisciplinary look at gun studies, putting into conversation scholars from such diverse areas as sociology, public policy, history, law, women’s studies and English.

The symposium is organized by Jennifer Carlson, an assistant professor in the School of Sociology and the School of Government and Public Policy. Carlson, who joined the UA in 2016, examines American gun culture, policing and public law enforcement. Her 2015 book is titled Citizen-Protectors: The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline. She is currently researching gun law enforcement in Arizona, California and Michigan through interviews with police chiefs and observation of gun licensing procedures.

Carlson says that there are many ways that guns matter in American life: A third of Americans own guns; over 13 million Americans are licensed to carry concealed guns; and over 30,000 Americans die by guns each year.

“I wanted to create a place not only to broaden scholarly perspectives on guns, but also to have a sustained conversation about the relationship between scholarship and politics on this hot-button issue,” Carlson said.

The UA community is invited to the keynote lunch panel, titled “The American Gun Debate: Past, Present, and Future,” held on Friday, Oct. 20 from 12 noon to 2 p.m. in ENR2 S107. RSVP required here.

During the panel, Kristin Goss, author of Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America, will be in conversation with Philip Cook (Duke University), David Kopel (Denver Law), and Robert Spitzer (CUNY).

Over the last five decades, the terms of the American gun debate have changed dramatically. From the landmark 2008 DC v Heller decision, which held the Second Amendment to be an individual right, to the proliferation of carry laws throughout the U.S., to the emergent movement for gun control, the American gun debate represents a highly dynamic, and oftentimes hotly divisive, terrain. Why do Americans increasingly turn to guns for self-protection, even as crime rates drop? What kinds of gun policies are likely to shape American gun politics in the future—and with what consequences for crime, community and safety? How should scholars contribute to the gun debate?

Various topics will be covered during to the rest of the day’s session:

  • A 8:30 a.m. panel will discuss the complex relationship between guns and violence. Panelists will examine the relationship between gun availability and crime rates; the efficacy of guns as self-protection tools; the impact of ‘smart policing’ and other law enforcement initiatives on gun crime; and public health perspectives on gun violence.
  • A 10:30 a.m. panel will address the diverse use of guns – from collecting to hunting to protection – and investigate how guns intersect with social identities along the lines of race, class, gender, nation and more.
  • A 2 p.m. panel focuses on the politics of guns: how social movements and lobbies mobilize in favor or against particular gun policies; how guns come to act as political symbols themselves; and how guns serve as vehicles of governance.
  •  A 4 p.m. panel discusses the big business of guns. Panelists examine the economic parameters of legal and illegal gun markets and the formal regulations and informal social contracts that regulate these markets.

The proceedings from the symposium will be published by Routledge as part of a Handbook on Gun Studies in 2018. Editing the volume with Carlson are her symposium co-organizers: Kristin Goss, the Kevin D. Gorter Associate Professor of Public Policy at Duke University, and Harel Shapira, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. 

The symposium is co-sponsored by the UA Rombach Institute on Crime Delinquency and Correction; UA School of Government and Public Policy; UA School of Sociology; UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; UA College of Humanities; and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Published Date: 

10/06/2017 - 10:19am