On Target: Gun Culture, Storytelling, and the NRA
Published: August 2022© 2023
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 264 Pages
Illustrations: 4 b&w figures, 4 b&w tables
Dimensions: 6.20 x 9.10
264 Pages, 6.20 x 9.10 x 0.90 in, 4 b&w figures, 4 b&w tables
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is an important actor in the American gun debate. While popular explanations for the group’s influence often focus on the NRA’s lobbying and campaign donations, it receives lesser attention for the mass mobilization efforts that make these political endeavours possible.
On Target explores why the NRA is so influential and how we can understand the group’s impact on firearms policy in the United States. The book looks at how the NRA both draws upon and shapes historical meta-narratives regarding the role of firearms in America’s national identity and how this is part of a larger effort to expand the community of gun owners. Noah S. Schwartz demonstrates how the NRA portrays a vision of the past through events such as its annual meeting; communications such as American Rifleman magazine and NRA TV; and points of contact including the National Firearms Museum.
Based on fieldwork in Indiana and Virginia, including participant observation at NRA events and firearm safety classes, thematic analysis of audio-visual material, and interviews with NRA executives and members, On Target sheds light on the ways in which the NRA tells stories to build and mobilize a politically motivated network of gun owners.
1. Introduction to the Great Gun Debate
2. What Is the Gun Culture?
3. Narrative and Memory
4. On Paper and Online
5. Points of Contact: The NRA Annual Meeting
6. Home on the Range
7. The NRA Firearms History Museum
"On Target is a book about the power of culture – gun culture. Striking a balance between critical distance and intellectual empathy, Schwartz guides the reader through a grand tour of National Rifle Association activities – from its museum to its annual meetings – to illuminate how the NRA provides its members (and firearms enthusiasts more generally) with a space of collective belonging and cultural connection. Excavating how memory, narrative, and identity are mobilized by the NRA, On Target provides a fresh look at the appeal of guns and the role of the NRA in shaping that appeal."Jennifer Carlson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Arizona
"In his important and timely book, Noah Schwartz uses collective memory theory and historical narrative to understand the NRA’s vast influence on firearm policy. Sociologists, gun regulation scholars, policy practitioners, and those generally interested in gun politics will find Schwartz’s work engaging, informative, and properly balanced."Mark R. Joslyn, Professor of Political Science, University of Kansas
"This is not some dry, academic treatment; Noah Schwartz delivers a rich, evocative, and personal account of his own experiences learning to use firearms and encountering members of the NRA and gun-owning community. In the process, he develops key insights about how the NRA uses historical and cultural narratives to shape both the meanings people attach to guns and the identities and political views of gun owners. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to better understand gun culture and the powerful influence of the NRA in politics and policy."Melissa K. Merry, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Louisville
"Leave it to a Canadian to understand gun culture in the United States better than most American scholars do. On Target is an excellent treatment of the National Rifle Association’s role in the ongoing Great Gun Debate in the US. Rather than lamenting the NRA as an 800-pound gorilla rampaging through Washington DC and subverting American democracy, Schwartz offers a level-headed, participant observer’s view of what the NRA actually does that animates its political power. He is a skilled ethnographer and writer and his thick descriptions of the NRA annual meeting, gun classes, range visits, and the NRA museum are among the best I have read. Very highly recommended."David Yamane, Professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University