I am an Associate Professor of Sociology and Government & Public Policy at the University of Arizona and a 2022 MacArthur Fellow.
My award-winning research examines how guns shape American life, including those who survive gun violence’s harrowing aftermath, police who enforce the country’s complex gun laws, gun sellers and retailers who are on the front lines of surges in gun purchasing, and the people who choose to own and carry guns.
I am currently working with a team of research assistants on a National Science Foundation-funded project aimed at unraveling the impacts and aftermath of gun violence on gun violence survivors—broadly defined. It aims at better understanding how gun violence extracts a significant cost–psychically, emotionally and beyond–on the lives of people in the US and the consequences for their social and political lives. You can read some of my co-authored work with Madison Armstrong on gun trauma in our New York Times op-ed and our peer-reviewed article “Speaking of Trauma.” If you’d like to stay updated on this research, you can follow @survivingguns on twitter.
I’m passionate about how my research can be used to challenge the existing terms of the gun debate so that we can have a better conversation about our complicated, and perplexing, relationships with firearms–as individuals and as a society. Accordingly, I am dedicated to encouraging a better gun debate in my classroom, in my research, and in the public sphere more broadly.
My 2023 forthcoming book, Merchants of the Right: Gun Sellers and the Crisis of American Democracy, draws on interviews with gun sellers across the US to better understand the dilemmas facing American democracy today. The book focuses on the turmoil of 2020, showing how gun sellers mobilized mainstays of modern conservative culture—armed individualism, conspiracism, and partisanship—as they navigated the uncertainty and chaos unfolding around them, asserting gun politics as conservative politics and reworking or even rejecting liberal democracy in the process.
In 2015, I published my first book entitled Citizen-Protectors: The Everyday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline with Oxford University Press. This book chronicles my interviews and ethnographic work with gun carriers in Michigan in order to make sense of a massive transformation over the last few decades in how Americans relate to their guns–that is, by carrying them.
This book led to a whole set of questions about the relationship between gun politics and public law enforcement, which is why I decided to interview over six dozen police chiefs in Arizona, California and Michigan. These interviews form the basis of my second book, Policing the Second Amendment: Guns, Law Enforcement and the Politics of Race, published in 2020 with Princeton University Press. This book was a recipient of the Sociology of Law Distinguished Book Award in 2021.
I can be reached at jennifercarlson AT email DOT arizona DOT edu. You can also follow me on twitter (@jdawncarlson).