Lydia Wilkes, Nate Kreuter, and Ryan SkinnellJun 15, 2022
Rhetoric and Guns
University Press of Colorado 2022
Guns hold a complex place in American culture. Over 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence, and guns are intimately connected to issues of public health, as is evident whenever a mass shooting occurs. 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. They are also central to debates about constitutional rights, as seen in ongoing discussions about the Second Amendment, and they are a continuous source of legislative concern, as apparent in annual ratings of gun-supporting legislators.
Even as guns are wrapped up with other crucial areas of concern, they are also fundamentally a rhetorical concern. Guns and gun violence occupy a unique rhetorical space in the United States, one characterized by silent majorities, like most gun owners; vocal minorities, like the firearm industry and gun lobby; and a stalemate that fails to stem the flood of the dead. How Americans talk, deliberate, and fight about guns is vital to how guns are marketed, used, and regulated. A better understanding of the rhetorics of guns and gun violence can help Americans make better arguments about them in the world. However, where guns are concerned, rhetorical studies is not terribly different from American culture more generally. Guns are ever-present and exercise powerful effects, but they are commonly talked about in oblique, unsystematic ways.
Rhetoric and Guns (Utah State UP, 2022) advances 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. The authors attempt to understand rhetoric’s relationship to guns by analyzing rhetoric about guns and how they function in and as rhetoric related to specific instances—in media coverage, political speech, marketing, and advertising. Original chapters from scholars in rhetorical studies, communication, education, and related fields elucidate how rhetoric is used to maintain and challenge the deadly status quo of gun violence in the United States and extend rhetoricians’ sustained interest in the fields’ relationships to violence, brutality, and atrocity.
Tom Discenna is Professor of Communication at Oakland University whose work examines issues of academic labor and communicative labor more broadly.