Monday, March 25, 2013

UToledo: The Informational War on Guns

Dr. Brian Anse Patrick
(from his Facebook Page)
This summer, the University of Toledo will offer a class on The Informational War on Guns.

It begins June 24 and will go until Aug. 2. It's an on-line communication class (COMM 4900 -921) that will include weekly in-person meetings and would count for three credits in either social science or the humanities.

It sounds like an interesting class that will feature a visit to the national gun matches at Camp Perry in July, perhaps a visit to gun range as well as the Ohio/Michigan Concealed Pistol License training course. Dr. Brian Patrick is the instructor and he is certified to teach the CPL courses.

The class will focus on various aspects of the information battle regarding guns, including the most recent issues of gun control.

Here is a link to Dr. Patrick's blog which gives the tentative weekly schedule for the class.

Here is the summary from the syllabus that was emailed to me. If you have questions about the course, you can email Dr. Patrick at brian dot patrick at utoledo dot edu. I believe you can still audit a class without being a regular student of the university. You pay the course fees and take it as a pass/fail, but you don't get college credit for any audited class.

COMM 4900 Section 911
Informational War on Guns
Online Summer Session 6/24—8/02

“Power Comes From the barrel of a gun.” ~ Chairman Mao

Brian Anse Patrick, PHD
Professor of Communication
Department of Communication

4630 University Hall, University of Toledo
419 530 4670

American gun policy is a site where many lines of social influence converge. Symbolically speaking, it functions much like that fabled paradoxical location where irresistible forces meet up with immovable objects: e.g., the Million Moms March vs. the National Rifle Association; individual vs. collective rights; public health vs. individual autonomy; conservative vs. liberal values; local vs. federal authority; elite culture vs. egalitarian culture; propaganda vs. information; and the libertarians vs. everybody else. The list goes on. Accordingly, scholars and researchers have contributed to what has become a vigorous public and academic debate overlapping many disciplines: e.g., history, law, economics, public health, psychology, communication, criminology, sociology and others.

Ideologues abound in this area—and virtually everyone, ideologue or not, has what they feel to be a well-justified opinion on guns and gun policy. But having taken a serious interest in the debate for more than a decade, my impression is that people in general believe more about guns and gun policy than they really know; their general tendency being to seek out, perceive and interpret information in ways that align with their predispositions. Further, advocates and “experts” for and against guns cite and brandish scientific statistics and studies as proofs, yet few advocates appear ever to have actually read or understood the studies that they claim back up their positions. Compounding matters even more, American journalists who quote these advocates in news stories are notorious for poor, inaccurate, lazy and some say biased, reporting on gun issues.

The main purpose/goal of this seminar, therefore, is to provide a systematic overview of American gun policy, an overview informed by what is known—or alleged to be known—about guns by researchers and scholars.

The seminar will proceed mainly by means of (1) readings, presentations and discussions of primary source materials, e.g., research articles from scientific journals, book chapters, blogs, websites and papers presented at national conferences; (2) invited presentations and discussions with pro and anti-gun advocates and politicians who have played important parts in the debate and policy formation in Ohio and Michigan (and perhaps nationally if we can schedule visits or video-conferencing), and; (3) an occasional “talk” or overview of what I know (or think that I know) on particular areas of gun policy. Additionally, I have a number of video-recordings of panels on gun policy at national forums along with propaganda/educational pieces by various gun/antigun groups; we can select those that interest us most. The seminar is interdisciplinary by its nature. No prerequisite or background is required except an interest in the subject and willingness to read and thoughtfully participate.

Many of the scholarly works that we will visit are controversial. Some works have made and unmade professional reputations. A sample of works includes:

· Excerpts from historian Michael Bellesiles’ book, based on data from colonial era wills and other documents, challenging assumptions about the central role and prevalence of guns in the original U.S. colonies. Bellesiles won a Bancroft Prize form Columbia University for this work, however, the prize was withdrawn after critics attacked him for being unable to provide the documentary evidence he claimed to have. After a disciplinary inquiry, he resigned from Emory University.

· Work by economist John Lott, based on data from state uniform crime reports, that equates more guns with less crime, specifically that violent crime decreases in the many states that have recently licensed average citizens to carry concealed weapons. Lott, who has also been attacked over the validity of his data and methods, routinely appears before legislative committee hearings in state houses concerning liberalization of concealed weapon carry laws. Lott now works for a conservative think tank.

· Work by legal historian Robert Cottrell reviewing the origins of uniform state laws restricting concealed carry of firearms. Cottrell concludes such laws were aimed mainly at minorities (Blacks and Italians especially) and recent immigrants whom cultural elites of the progressive era distrusted.

· The often-cited work from the New England Journal of Medicine by public health researcher A. Kellerman that concludes homicide risk to household members is increased by the mere presence of a firearm.

Required Texts. Many of the works that we will read will be made available online to you online.

A number of articles and book chapters will be posted on the Carlson Library e-reserves for this seminar and your “My Courses” function at MyUT (in the “files” for this course.) Some are available online directly from their sources , e.g., the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 2nd Amendment decision, DC v. Heller, and McDonald v Chicago.

Lastly, in the final weeks of the seminar we will select and discuss some readings based on seminar participants’ developing views on the subject of gun policy.

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