An Arizona gun culture and trauma researcher wins ‘genius’ grant

An Arizona gun culture and trauma researcher wins ‘genius’ grant


News brief

A gun culture and trauma researcher has won a MacArthur Fellowship, a no-strings-attached grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that are called “genius grants.”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded Jennifer Carlson, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, $800,000 for her research into guns. She studies gun culture and politics, but also gun violence.

“My goal as a sociologist isn’t to solve the US gun debate. That’s for us as a society to work through,” Carlson was quoted as saying in a UA news release. “Rather, my goal is to help people better understand how guns matter in such starkly different ways to different people in the US”

She thinks that’s the key to transforming the social divisions around guns, and that these funds could be an opportunity to “think big” on this front.

Her books have looked at policing, and why people own and carry guns.

“Gun politics in the United States is about so much more than guns themselves,” she said in a video by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. “It’s about identity. It’s about feelings of safety and security. It’s about rights. It is about so many things where the stakes are extremely, extremely high.”

And her next book, Merchants of the Right: Gun Sellers and the Crisis of American Democracydue in May 2023, is about the dramatic increase of gun sales in 2020 through the start of the pandemic, racial tensions, and a presidential election.

Carlson’s also working on a study looking into the trauma caused by gun violence.

When the foundation tried to call Carlson about the award, she silenced her phone because she was in an interview with someone who had experienced gun violence.

She said about 45,000 people die and at least another 80,000 are injured by guns each year, per UA’s announcement.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 KUNM. To see more, visit KUNM.

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Jorge Oliveira