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I Don't Dial 911: American Gun Politics and the Problem of Policing

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 52 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2012 Pages: 1113-1132
Jennifer D. Carlson
Date Published
November 2012
20 pages
This article examines the current pro-gun sentiment present in America.
In what sense does American pro-gun sentiment constitute a 'politics'? The author used in-depth interviews with 60 male gun carriers to propose that pro-gun politics not only involve claims to the State, but also center on particular understandings about the proper role of the State, particularly public law enforcement. The author argues that, within the contemporary U.S. context of neo-liberalism (particularly the War on Crime), guns are a complex response to police failure amid anxieties regarding crime and insecurity. Specifically, guns serve as political tools used to critique the State's power to police. Most of the time, gun advocates articulate guns as a response to the police's inability to protect citizens; however, they sometimes also describe guns as a response to the police's propensity to violate. The author identified two sets of pro-gun, police-suspicious beliefs that emerge along racialized, masculine lines, which the author denotes 'neo-liberal gun politics' and 'neo-radical gun politics'. The author explains these political beliefs as responses to the State's power to police by showing how neo-liberal ideology alongside the War on Crime has shaped American perceptions of public law enforcement. (Published Abstract)