Good guys and bad guys : race, class, gender and concealed handgun licensing
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Abstract: This dissertation explores how cultural meanings around race, class, and gender shape concealed handgun licensing in Texas. This project utilizes in-depth interviews with 36 concealed handgun license holders and field observations at licensing courses and gun ranges to understand why people get a license, what their gun carrying practices are, and how they imagine criminal threat and self-defense. Through my analysis of interviews, I find that masculinity is central to how men become gun users and why they want to obtain a concealed handgun license. Women explain their desire for a CHL as rooted in feelings of empowerment. While traditional conceptions of “fear of crime” are not a motivating factor for most of the license holders I interviewed, I find that CHL holders feel vulnerable to potential crime because they assume that criminals are armed. These interviews also suggest that perceptions of criminality are highly racialized, as predominantly black spaces are marked as threatening. As I argue, part of the appeal of concealed handgun licenses is that they signify to those who have them that they are the embodiment of personal responsibility.