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Berkeley Talks: America wants gun control. Why doesn't it have it? (revisiting)

By Public Affairs

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mural of a man with his head in his hand

Detail of a mural by Kyle Holbrook and local youth in Miami, Florida. ( Photo by Terence Faircloth via Flickr )

“If having a gun really made you safer, then America would be one of the safest countries in the world. It’s not,” said Gary Younge, a professor of sociology at Manchester University and former editor-at-large at the Guardian , in a lecture at UC Berkeley on March 4, 2020.

Headshot of Gary Younge

Gary Younge is a professor of sociology at Manchester University, former editor-at-large at the Guardian and author of Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives , published in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Gary Younge)

“Yet, while Americans consistently favor more gun control,” Younge continued, “gun laws have generally become more lax. That is partly due to the material resources of the gun lobby. But it is also about the central role of the gun, what it represents in the American narrative and the inability of gun control advocates to develop a counter-narrative. … When the national narrative is a story of conquering, dominating, force and power, a broad atavistic attachment to the gun can have more pull than narrower rational arguments to contain it.”

Younge’s lecture, called “Weaponizing Narratives: Why America Wants Gun Control, But Doesn’t Have It,” was part of Berkeley’s Jefferson Memorial Lectures , sponsored by the Graduate Division. It was also part of the campus’s yearlong initiative, 400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Injustice, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies.

Younge is the author of five books, including Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives , published in 2016, which tells the story of 10 children and teens shot dead in one day in the United States. “It’s not a book about gun control,” wrote Younge at the beginning. “It’s just a book about what happens when you don’t have gun control.”

Listen to the full lecture, followed by a Q&A with the audience, in Berkeley Talks episode #146: “America wants gun control. Why doesn’t it have it? (revisiting).”

Watch or listen to other Jefferson Memorial Lectures on the Graduate Division’s website.

Learn more about the 400 Years initiative on the Othering and Belonging Institute’s website.

This lecture was recorded by Educational Technology Services and produced by University of California Television. Watch a video of the lecture below.

Gary Younge, a professor of sociology at the University of Manchester and former editor-at-large at the Guardian, delivered the spring 2020 Jefferson Memorial Lecture at UC Berkeley. (Video recorded by ETS and produced by UCTV)

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