Rhetoric & Guns

Edited by Lydia Wilkes, Nate Kreuter, & Ryan Skinnell

Rhetoric and Guns collects 14 chapters of original scholarship from scholars in rhetorical studies, communication, education, and related fields to elucidate the relationship of rhetoric to guns. Guns hold a complex place in American culture. Approximately 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence (i.e., homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings). But guns also play an important role in many Americans’ lives that is not reducible to violence and death—as tools, sporting equipment, and identity markers, for example. Guns are intimately connected to issues of public health, as is evident whenever a mass shooting occurs (by some counts, as often as daily). They are central to debates about Constitutional rights, as seen in ongoing discussions about the limits and assurances of the 2nd Amendment. And they are a continuous source of legislative concern, as apparent in annual ratings of legislators for their support of or opposition to gun rights.

Even as they are wrapped up with other crucial areas of concern, it is not too much to claim that guns are also fundamentally a rhetorical concern. Guns and gun violence occupy a unique rhetorical space in the 21st century United States, one characterized by silent majorities (e.g., most gun owners), vocal minorities (especially the firearm industry and gun lobby), and a stalemate that fails to stem the tide of the dead. How Americans talk about, deliberate about, and fight about guns is vital to how guns are marketed, used, and regulated. However, where guns are concerned, rhetorical studies is not terribly different from American culture more generally. Guns are ever present, they exercise powerful functions, but they are commonly talked about in oblique, unsystematic ways. The authors in this book hope to advance more direct, systematic engagement in the field and beyond by analyzing rhetoric about guns, guns in rhetoric, and guns as rhetoric, particularly as they relate to specific instances of guns in culture.

“Rhetoric and Guns illustrates the complexity of the gun debate, and many of the chapters gesture toward ways in which this debate could become more productive, ideally leading to less violence.—Megan Eatman, Clemson University

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