Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Nero Fiddles while Rome Burns: Partisan Politics and Gun Control


School of Criminal Justice


College of Community and Public Service

Date Range



The current incarnation of the debate over guns and gun control is a relatively recent phenomenon; however, the seeds for this debate were sown centuries earlier. For many observers, the partisan line drawn on this issue seems perfectly logical and inevitable representing just another front on the ideological battlefield between liberals and conservatives. Yet, few observers and even fewer participants in the debate seem to critically examine the origins of this particular battlefront and the manner in which these lines were drawn. Moreover, the partisan rancor has come to overshadow a simple fact: both sides of the debate wish to mitigate the social harms caused by the improper or illegal uses of firearms. Political bickering hampers not only the examination of the debate itself, but also the search for solutions to the problems both sides agree exist. It has only been within the last 40-50 years that mainstream liberals have railed against the "public safety menace" that firearms allegedly pose while mainstream conservatives tout the twin ideas of "Constitutional rights" and that firearms represent some idealized "American heritage." Our research indicates that American gun control efforts have historically been racially motivated; the primary difference between the last half-century of these efforts and those of previous eras is a fundamental unfamiliarity with, and thus fear of firearms, coupled with an unacknowledged racial bias. With this information we believe more effective educational and safety programs can be designed and implemented to address some of the social harms associated with firearms.

Conference Name

American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting

Conference Location

San Francisco, CA

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