The American gun control debate: A discursive analysis

Simon Goodman, Bethany Perry

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter contains a discursive analysis of the gun control debate in the United States of America. This is a controversial debate that has implications for peace and conflict, as the debate relates to policies regarding weapons and the potential prevention of mass shootings. However, there has been a lack of detailed analysis of the ways in which the arguments in this debate are made. As the discursive approach can overcome these limitations, it is used to analyse texts produced by two key players in this debate, (then) President Barack Obama in support of tighter controls and Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) against. The results demonstrate two polarised dichotomies. The first of these sees both speakers present themselves as working to protect something important. Obama presents his measures as in the service of protecting lives where LaPierre presents his opposition to the same measures as designed to protect freedom. A second dichotomy can be seen where Obama constructs those who support gun control as ‘courageous’, whereas for LaPierre these same people are constructed as villains. The analysis is used to identify the ways in which both speakers attempt to present their arguments as legitimate. It is therefore shown how discursive psychology, when applied to the gun control debate, helps us understand how issues of peace and conflict are drawn upon and how such debates can influence policy regarding the continuation of armed violence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDiscourse, peace & conflict
    Subtitle of host publicationDiscursive Psychology Perspectives
    EditorsStephen Gibson
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-99094-1
    ISBN (Print)978-3-319-99093-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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