Firearms and their place in American society have been under heavy scrutiny for the past several decades. Previous academic research typically focused on the firearm as a weapon that needs to be regulated, controlled, and the relative fight between various parties concerning second amendment and constitutional rights. However, inadequate scholarly research focuses on the firearm as an abstract, symbolic entity in American culture, and what the firearm represents to Americans in a more complex, abstruse way. This research utilizes the National Firearms Survey (NFS), conducted in 1999, as a mechanism of secondary qualitative analysis to examine the ways in which Americans view their firearms conceptually. After employing qualitative content analysis using data provided by the NFS, we found that Americans seemed to be more concerned about safety and training regarding firearms, as opposed to traditional notions of the firearm as an American symbol of liberty and freedom.


firearms, symbolism, qualitative, culture

Author Bio(s)

Zachary T. Carlisle, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at Midland University in Fremont, NE. His main teaching and research interests include qualitative research methods, gender, social psychology, culture, and sexual violence. Please direct correspondence to carlisle@midlandu.edu.

Michelle L. Estes is a Ph.D. candidate at Oklahoma State University. She recently earned her M.A. from Middle Tennessee State University. Her research and teaching interests broadly include gender, sexuality, race, inequality, crime, deviance, and qualitative methods. Please direct correspondence to michelle.estes@okstate.edu.


We would like to thank Tammy Mix and Adam Straub for reviewing earlier drafts of this paper.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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