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Engaging Ideas

America's Gun Rights Battle

What is happening and why?

This Engaging Idea explores the political battle over gun rights and gun regulation in America.


Photo of Trent Steidly

Trent Steidley is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Denver. His research seeks to understand how social movements, politics, and the criminal justice system interact to affect policy and criminal justice outcomes in the United States, particularly with regard to firearms.

Trent has published several peer-reviewed studies on firearms and gun rights in the United States. Including a study in Social Forces that examines how neighborhood crime rates are affected by the prevalence of gun shops in communities, a study in Mobilization examining the influence of NRA membership on state concealed carry laws, and a study in Social Currents examining the influence of political factors on gun sales in the United States. He also teaches classes at the University of Denver exploring the role of firearms in society, law, and violence.

In addition to his work on firearms in the United States, Trent is also working with David Ramey at the Pennsylvania State University on a research project examining how governments allocate spending for things like police military equipment, welfare programs, and the criminal justice system. 

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Questions for personal reflection or group discussion

  1. Dr. Steidley mentions that some proposed gun control policies, such as assault weapons bans, might have little effect on the most prevalent types of firearm violence, such a suicide and handgun violence. Why might gun control advocates continue to support policies that seem unrelated to the most prevalent forms of firearm violence?
  2. Think about how you have seen gun rights and gun control covered in the news lately. Do you usually hear stories about people promoting gun rights and ownership or stories about people promoting gun control?
  3. What political risks might gun rights advocates face if gun rights were pushed too far?
  4. When you vote in elections, what are the three most important issues for you as voter? Did gun control or gun rights make the list? Why or Why not?
  5. Do you think there are any policies that both gun control and gun rights advocates could agree on?

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