Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 401 pages) : PDF file

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ryan King

Committee Members

Steven Messner, Jamie Fader


Firearms, Interviews, Legal consciousness, Qualitative, Stigma, Symbolic interactionism, Firearms owners, Stigma (Social psychology), Gun control

Subject Categories



This dissertation addresses the topics of stigma and legal consciousness through close examination of the attitudes and life experiences of legal gun owners in upstate New York. Based in the symbolic interactionist tradition, and using a grounded theory approach, this project explores data gathered from participant-observation sessions, and semi-structured interviews with 37 participants. Analysis of this data reveals that respondents highlight safety, responsibility, skillful operation, and fun as the primary values they associate with the ownership and use of firearms. Additionally, in a departure from previous research in this area, respondents reported few individual experiences of social stigma, and engage in very few stigma management techniques surrounding their ownership and use of firearms. However, respondents do experience negative outcomes surrounding their engagement with the political realm, leading to perceptions of disadvantage, especially in state-level politics. Using Ewick and Silbey’s theory of legal consciousness as a framework, respondents’ accounts reveal how their perceptions of the political process as a whole are best viewed using the “with the law” perspective, whereas their attitudes about New York State politics specifically are better described using the “against the law” perspective. These research findings can be applied more broadly to gain understanding about the nature of stigma and its effects on individuals and groups, as well as the conditions under which groups feel engaged with, or disconnected from, legal and political processes.

Included in

Sociology Commons