Gun owners, ethics, and the problem of evil: A response to the Las Vegas shooting

Joe Anderson, Deborah Durham, Niklas Hultin, Hugh Gusterson, Charles Fruehling Springwood


This article examines the ways in which American gun owners deploy a particular ethical system in their responses to instances of mass gun violence. I argue that anthropology is uniquely situated to provide a better understanding of how this ethical system is produced, thereby allowing us to move beyond the falsely dichotomous terms of the gun control debate. Recently returned from a period of fieldwork with a gun rights activist community in San Diego, California, I use ethnographic data to show that owning a firearm brings with it an ethical system that makes the prospect of giving up guns in the aftermath of a mass shooting even less attractive to my informants. Furthermore, this article focuses on what has been called “the problem of evil” by demonstrating how my informants order the world into “good guys” and “bad guys.” This opposition becomes personified into a more general notion of good versus evil, thereby placing particular people in the category of the human and others in the category of the inhuman, or monstrous.


gun culture, mass shootings, Las Vegas, ethics, National Rifle Association

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.3.003