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From Virtuous Armed Citizen to "Cramped Little Risk-Fearing Man": The Meaning of Firearms in an Insecure Era

Yuill, Kevin (2017) From Virtuous Armed Citizen to "Cramped Little Risk-Fearing Man": The Meaning of Firearms in an Insecure Era. In: The Second Amendment and Gun Control: Freedom, Fear, and the American Constitution. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxfordshire. ISBN 9780367887476

Item Type: Book Section


The gun debate has always been about who may wield arms and how they may use them, not about the arms themselves. It remains so today but the gun debate is intractable because of the changed historical context within which today’s debate takes place. Both calls for gun controls and the rise in sales of guns for self-protection stem from insecurity within what has been Ulrich Beck called a ‘risk society’. This chapter examines the ideas behind gun control through history, comparing and contrasting gun control in different historical eras. Before 1970, gun controls were supported by conservatives and resisted by those who sought equality. Part of American heritage, the virtuous armed citizen was a symbol of the country and the power of and trust in ordinary citizens. But since 1970 the virtuous armed citizen has been under cultural attack from what cultural critic Allan Bloom called the ‘cramped, risk-fearing little man’. The irrational ban on ‘assault weapons’, which are responsible for only a tiny number of homicides per year, and the fact that no few if any campaigners for gun controls call for the police to be disarmed disarmament of police and private security demonstrates that the real target of the campaign for more control on guns is not guns themselves but the culture of guns about guns themselves but the perceived risks allowing private citizens to be armed. In a risk-fearing culture, a population fearful of its fellows trusts only the state to protect them and is offended by the power of the ordinary citizen. But, equally, the fact that gun sales rise after mass shootings and terrorist attacks, despite a historically low and falling crime rate, indicates that the purported need for a gun for protection is also the product of irrational fears. Insecurity about one’s fellows pushes drives both policy responses – gun controls – and individuals into to arm themselves arming themselves for self-defence.

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Depositing User: Kevin Yuill


Item ID: 7842
ISBN: 9780367887476
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ORCID for Kevin Yuill: ORCID iD

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Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2017 14:05
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2020 13:45


Author: Kevin Yuill ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications


Culture > History and Politics

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