Why is American masculinity at the center of gun culture, but not the gun debate?

The 1966 University of Texas tower shooting, in which a gunman killed 17 people and wounded more than 30, is considered to be the first mass shooting of the modern era.

In the subsequent decades, the conversation around gun violence in America has cycled through the same topics, from arming teachers to the meaning of the Second Amendment. But these tragedies have more in common than the rhetoric that follows them – all but three were committed by men.

Gun deaths in the U.S. neared 40,000 in 2017. Most were from suicides and homicides, with men making up more than 80 percent of both perpetrators and victims. American masculinity is closely tied to gun culture and violence, but is rarely discussed. As traditional masculine expectations are being challenged in Hollywood, politics, advertising and beyond, some gun policy experts are asking, is it time for this examination to reach gun culture?

Nicki DeMarco

Nicki DeMarco is a video producer and editor embedded in the Features section. She joined The Post in 2012 as a breaking news video editor, and has since covered two presidential elections, produced a documentary on sexual harassment in Hollywood and analyzed endless pop culture trends.

Erin Patrick O'Connor

Erin Patrick O’Connor is an award-winning video producer on the Style and Features desk. Before joining The Washington Post in 2015, he was a freelance documentary producer in Phoenix, reporting along the border and throughout Mexico.

Sarah Hashemi

Sarah Hashemi creates motion graphics and animation for The Post's video team. Her work ranges from graphic explainers through branding and documentary. She has worked within many Washington Post brands such as The Lily, Voraciously and By The Way.


Originally published June 20, 2019.