In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement was born out of despair after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and murdered Trayvon Martin. In the months leading up to the killing of George Floyd, the of murder of black people by police and white vigilantes has continued unabated. FBI data shows that white officers are three times more likely to use a gun in a black neighborhood than in a white neighborhood, and the rate of police shootings of people of color is five times the rate of police shootings of white people. The ensuing protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breona Taylor poured over into every city in the U.S. and cities around the world. In response, police and federal troops shot at protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, most notoriously in Washington, D.C. to clear the way for Trump’s photo shoot.

Since that time, the Democratic and Republican national convention have both featured guns in dueling political narratives. Each featured a parent of a murdered Stoneman Douglas High School student. The Democratic convention highlighted the protests, the fight for racial justice, and the need for gun control. The Republican convention, by contrast, celebrated gun ownership and the stressed the importance of protecting the Second Amendment. Nowhere was the contrast more apparent than in the appearance at the RNC of Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the white couple who pointed guns at black protesters in St. Louis.

One third of people in the U.S. own guns, and both the pandemic and the protests saw marked increases in gun sales. The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership and gun deaths of any nation in the world. In a comparative study, political analyst Dylan McLean notes that, “the gun serves as a symbol of freedom, independence, and individual liberty for American shooters and the regulatory environment illustrates that Americans have had little willingness to trade-in this liberty for order.”[1] A culture built on rebellion and individualism operates in stark contrast to other developed nations, where gun control is viewed as necessary for the common good. But gun violence also echoes the legacy of slavery, as militias (and the Second Amendment) were viewed as essential to maintaining the oppressive order.

The 2021 December special issue focuses on “shooting,” broadly construed. While guns are inextricably bound to the history and identity of the United States, the act of shooting (via duels or gun shows) constitutes a performance of its own throughout the world. Shooting features prominently in opera, plays, and musicals, from Wilhelm Tell and Eugene Onegin, to Hamilton and Blue. Performances of warfare present narratives of people preparing themselves for shooting at others and dealing with its psychic aftermath. Veterans engage in virtual reality patrol sessions in order to process events at the root of trauma. Possible submissions might deal with dueling, outdoor historical pageants, Annie Oakley, the history of theatrical gun wranglers, archery contests, and video games. How is shooting performed? What narratives are constructed of shooting in its varied contexts? What is at stake, physically and psychically, for the protagonists in scenes that involve shooting? What ideologies are reified and what ideologies are challenged?

This special issue will be edited by E.J. Westlake. We will consider both full length essays for the print edition (6,000-9,000 words) as well as short provocations, video and/or photo essays, and other creative, multimedia material for our on-line platform (500-2,000 words), edited by Margherita Laera. For information about submission, visit our website:

Print submissions and online submissions should submitted no later than 1 February 2021.

Submissions should be uploaded through our ScholarOne portal:

Feel free to contact the editors with questions or inquiries:

E.J. Westlake, Editor at

Margherita Laera, Online Editor at

[1] Dylan S. McLean (2015) “Guns in the Anglo-American democracies: explaining an American exception,” Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 53:3, 233-252, DOI: 10.1080/14662043.2015.1051287