The current debate is a distraction

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"The debate about guns is distracting us from the issues we really should be focusing on, which is how do we create a society where we have less violence, where people feel like they’re included?" -Dr. Saul Cornell

The Film

American Totem seeks to shift the current debate by exploring the topic of guns in America from a more nuanced approach than the “more guns versus less guns” divide. The film recognizes that Americans have complex, and often contradictory, relationships with firearms. To focus solely on the object distracts us from addressing the deeper issues facing this country, including an uncertain economic future, the loss of community, increased rates of poverty, and shifting identities… Read More

The Issue

Both gun rights and gun control advocates have emotional connections and reactions to firearms. Both sides characterize the other side as fearful and too emotional, even using similar language. American Totem includes the many themes that cut across ideological positions.  Firearms are unlike other tools. They often represent deeper social connections and often cannot be separated from the American narrative. For many, firearms are symbols of personal identity and community… Read More


As independent filmmakers we rely on our supporters to help make this film a reality. We are long past the acquisition phase and are ready to assemble this film. Our costs include all post-production work including audio mixing, computer graphics, color correction, closed captioning and final master distribution. Tax Deductible Contributions – Southern Oregon Public Television is our fiscal agent, therefore all contributions are tax deductible… Read More



Dr. Saul Cornell, Fordham University, history

Dr. Firmin Debrabander – Maryland Institute College of Art, philosophy

Dr. Pamela Haag

Dr. Jooyoung Lee – University of Toronto, sociology

Dr. Eric Mankowski – Portland State University, psychology

  • Antecedents to gun violence: Gender and culture. In Gun violence: Prediction, prevention and policy, APA
  • Men’s mental health and masculinities, Encyclopedia of mental health, 2nd edition, vol.3. Waltham, MA: Academic Press.

Dr. Harel Shapira – University of Texas – Austin, sociology