Race, Rights, and Rifles: The Origins of the NRA and Contemporary Gun Culture (Chicago Studies in American Politics) (Paperback)
An eye-opening examination of the ties between American gun culture and white male supremacy from the American Revolution to today.
One-third of American adults—approximately 86 million people—own firearms. This is not just for protection or hunting. Although many associate gun-centric ideology with individualist and libertarian traditions in American political culture, Race, Rights, and Rifles shows that it rests on an equally old but different foundation. Instead, Alexandra Frilindra shows that American gun culture can be traced back to the American Revolution when republican notions of civic duty were fused with a belief in white male supremacy and a commitment to maintaining racial and gender hierarchies.
Drawing on wide-ranging historical and contemporary evidence, Race, Rights, and Rifles traces how this ideology emerged during the Revolution and became embedded in America’s institutions, from state militias to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Utilizing original survey data, Filindra reveals how many White Americans —including those outside of the NRA’s direct orbit—embrace these beliefs, and as a result, they are more likely than other Americans to value gun rights over voting rights, embrace antidemocratic norms, and justify political violence.
— Kirkus (starred review)
“Theoretically ambitious, empirically rich, and politically pertinent, Race, Rights and Rifles examines how guns relate to US citizenship. Reconstructing the political history of guns in the US and dissecting its ongoing impact on the present-day, Race, Rights and Rifles shows how ascriptive republicanism transforms the right to self-defense—a basic human impulse for survival—into a rallying point for political polarization and a justification for an investment in illiberal democracy.”
— Jennifer Dawn Carlson | author of "Merchants of the Right: Gun Sellers and the Crisis of American Democracy"
“Why are gun killings in the United States an everyday occurrence? Race, Rights, and Rifles blends intellectual and political history, an eye-opening account of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and contemporary public opinion data to provide compelling answers. Alexandra Filindra shows that the American Revolution fused white male gun ownership with ideals of republican civic virtue in ways that the NRA has long championed. Consequentially, this has led a shocking number of Americans to believe that they have a fundamental right to engage in vigilante violence—like invading the Capitol or shooting a Black teenager who mistakenly knocks on the wrong door.”
— Rogers Smith | University of Pennsylvania