VICE Investigates’ newest episode, “Gun Culture 2.0,” follows VICE Correspondent Josh Hersh as he dives into the ongoing gun rights debate. The episode begins with Hersh at an outdoor gun range looking on during a firearms training course put together by John Correia, a former Baptist minister turned YouTuber. Everyone there believes their gun is necessary for self-defense and further, many say they rarely leave the house without one.
There are over 400 million guns in the United States. This is also a 50% spike over the last decade. A majority of gun owners cite self-defense as the reason they own a firearm. The statistics this episode presents are daunting. These gun owners see themselves as Gun Culture 2.0. According to Correia, unlike 1.0, which is categorized with hunting and a rural idea of firearms, Gun Culture 2.0 is more suburban and urban with a focus on concealed carry. On his YouTube channel, Active Self Protection, Correia posts videos of real violent encounters that have been captured on cell phones and closed-circuit cameras. Correia walks viewers through the videos and explains what should be done or should have been done from a self-defense perspective.
Seeing him walk Hersh through the disturbing footage is unnerving. Correia stresses the importance of anatomically significant hits, shooting in vital organs or in places that will more likely stop someone from being able to retaliate. Correia says he doesn’t carry a gun because he wants to be a hero, he carries a gun because he is realistic about the threat of criminal violence.
The advocacy around gun rights has changed by equating gun rights with safety. An overwhelming majority of Americans favor expanding background checks but on the federal government has yet to act. In many states, the law is becoming laxer. “Gun Culture 2.0” pulls out a lot of statistics but one that sticks out the most is the fact that forty years ago it almost unheard of to carry a gun in public. In most states, it was illegal until the 1980s when the right-to-carry movement swept the nation. Almost anyone can receive a permit as long as you are not a felon and can past either a basic shooting test or a safety course. But now, activists like Correia want to get rid of even those restrictions with a policy knows as permitless or constitutional carry. Some states are already enacting these policies.
Seeing gun activists in Oklahoma, where permitless carry was recently passed, walk around with large rifles is disturbing. While they claim their goal is to get people comfortable with seeing these large weapons, I have to imagine it is impossible to feel anything but concern at seeing a complete stranger who is not in law enforcement walking into Sonic with an AK-15.
Prior to the law’s passage, gun activists in Oklahoma would attempt to provoke law enforcement by carrying outfitted pistols that looked like rifles. Forcing cops to do “second amendment audits” in order to spook cops or the general public is a disgusting practice. Additionally, seeing the filmed reaction from cops asking a white man about his pistol knowing how many Black men and women are killed and harmed every day by law enforcement just doesn’t sit right.
And while permitless carry and other right-leaning gun policies might be legal, it does not mean all law enforcement agrees with the policy. Lt. Jeff Richardson is in charge of training at the Edmond Police Department and has been working with officers to adapt to the changes in the law. His explanation of how 911 calls are now handled is terrifying. Calling about a subject near a high school with a gun can no longer warrant the emergency response it might have previously.
While not every armed person is dangerous, the fact they are not treated as potentially dangerous is horrifying to me. Furthermore, 911 dispatchers are asking callers more questions about armed suspects leaving potential callers in danger for longer periods of time. Previously, you could report someone with a gun and assume law enforcement would take care of it but now, callers have to describe the gun holder’s actions, demeanor, and so forth, leaving more room for error.
Outside of hypotheticals, “Gun Culture 2.0” also digs into the statistics behind the argument. Everything started with Dr. John Lott’s research from 1996 which argued more guns equals less crime. However, when other research began taking a hard look at his work they found quite a few flaws. Cassandra Crifasi of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at John Hopkins is one of the people working to dispel the false information. New research shows that states with right to carry laws saw an increase in violent crime rates.
In addition to showcasing the perspective of gun rights activists, “Gun Culture 2.0” also follows the stories of people who have been directly affected by gun violence. At one point the episode focuses on a woman who was threatened by an ex-boyfriend. When her current partner and her confronted the ex at his home, he shot at them, killing her partner. However, because of “stand your ground” laws, the case never went to court. The moment is difficult to watch and can be triggering for anyone who has dealt with intimate partner violence. People, particularly women, being murdered by intimate partners is too common an occurrence and also something gun rights activists don’t ever seem to consider.
“Gun Culture 2.0” is hard to watch because the United State’s obsession with guns is overwhelming and the amount of gun crime seen on the news is hard to stomach. Because of this, “Gun Culture 2.0” is also necessary as well. My only qualm with the episode is it does not touch on the factor of race as it relates to gun violence and gun culture. Nor does it really address the NRA’s role in creating a lot of the gun laws that are currently on the books both on the federal and state levels. Still, it is a daunting reminder of the carnage that has come because of this movement.
VICE Investigates is streaming now on Hulu with new episodes dropping monthly.
VICE Investigates, Episode 8 - Gun Culture 2.0
“Gun Culture 2.0” is hard to watch. The United State’s obsession with guns is overwhelming and the amount of gun crime seen on the news is hard to stomach. Because of this, “Gun Culture 2.0” is also necessary to watch. My only qualm with the episode is it does not touch on the factor of race as it relates to gun violence and gun culture. Nor does it really address the NRA’s role in creating a lot of the gun laws that are currently on the books both on the federal and state levels.