Look at 3 enduring stories Americans tell about guns to understand the debate over them

The United States has struggled with a spate of horrific mass shootings – and will now need to grapple with the implications of the Supreme Court striking down New York’s restrictions on carrying concealed firearms, with consequences beyond the state.

After each tragedy with guns, people try to make sense of the violence by talking about what happened. The discussion usually gravitates toward two familiar poles: gun control on one end, and personal liberty on the other. But despite all the talk, not much changes.

We are scholars of communication who study how rhetoric shapes politics and culture – particularly how the stories Americans tell about the country and its past continue to shape the present. The nation’s failure to prevent such frequent mass shootings is, we suggest, partially a product of how American society commemorates and talks about guns.

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