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Guns, fear and the media: Experts explain the shifting gun culture in America

Guns have always been a central feature of American culture. However, over the years the culture surrounding gun usage has shifted.

Sociologist Dr. David Yamane and psychologist Dr.Kevin Gilliland explain on “Sunday Night in America” how the uptick in senseless violence across America has created a heightened sense of fear and an increased need for self-defense in Americans.

“I think we have to start by recognizing that guns have always been a fairly normal part of American culture. But the reasons that people owned guns have evolved over time and people have always had firearms for self-defense,” Dr. Yamane said, going on to explain how the “core” of American gun culture has seen an evolution motivated by self-defense.


“In the past 30 to 40 years, the self-defense motivation has really moved to the core of American gun culture. So this is what I call gun culture 2.0, the second evolution of American gun culture. Not everybody owns guns for self-defense, but a lot of people do,” he said.

On the topic of the fear surrounding guns and the increased importance of self-defense, Dr. Gilliland highlighted the role of the media and social platforms creating a heightened sense of concern surrounding violence.

Customers view semi automatic guns on display in Los Angeles

Customers view semi automatic guns on display at a gun shop in Los Angeles, California December 19, 2012. Gun shops report increase in sales since the Connecticut school massacre.  (REUTERS/Gene Blevins/File Photo)

“It’s the fearful, isolated, rhetoric filled individual that feels such a great need to defend themselves all the time and everywhere. And it’s hard to value another human when you’re not connected to them, even when your view of them comes from social media news and not the unbiased stuff that you and I grew up on that went away in 1987 when the FCC got rid of the fairness right, the fairness rules for media, the Fairness Doctrine. So what we did is what we look for in those,” he said, discussing the effect these sources have on people’s psyche.

“And the more you fill your head, your psyche, and the more you read and watch, the more you get disrupted, and you feel far more vulnerable. And now fear and anxiety and worry starts to make choices, including protecting yourself,” Dr. Gilliland continued, addressing how social media does not only impact adolescents negatively but adults as well.

When asked about the increased coverage of violence in today’s media, Dr. Gilliland explained how the constant news of aggression contributes to the heightened fear and anxiety in individuals.


“We do have a greater knowledge of it without question than we ever did again. We used to grow up with the worries that existed in our community, and we weren’t able to pursue or have information pushed our direction. There’s absolutely an element of that. That anxiety and fear and worry has permeated into our world because our world has gotten so much bigger, and we’re not built for a world with information pressing at us like it is. It’s why we caution our adolescents, and we need to caution ourselves,” he said.

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