The current debate is a distraction

After public mass shootings, the national gun debate consists of predictable talking points that focus on the object and neglect the underlying causes. However, firearms are unlike other objects.

For some Americans, they are symbols of personal identity and community.  For other Americans, they represent racial oppression and violence.  American Totem explores Americans’ emotional connection to firearms, and the power of this object to both create and destroy community.

Using a non-partisan approach, various communities have time to share their stories, including gun rights activist, gunshot victims, community organizers, historians, philosophers and sociologists.


Melina Abdullah, PhD  Pan-African Studies, California State University, Los Angeles

Rakem Balogun  Co-founder, Huey P. Newton Gun Club, Dallas, Texas

Yafeuh Balogun  Co-founder, Huey P. Newton Gun Club, Dallas, Texas

Soraya Chemaly  Journalist and Author, Rage Becomes Her

Saul Cornell, PhD  Fordham University, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America

scott crow  Author, Setting Sights: Reflections and Histories on Community Armed Self Defense

Julianna Crowder  Founder, A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League, Austin, Texas

Firmin DeBrabander, PhD  Philosophy, Maryland Institute College of Art, Do Guns Make Us Free?


Bigg Flawliss  Rapper and Actor

Pamela Haag, PhD  Author, The Gunning of America

Mark Kaplan, PhD  Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA

Tina Maldonado  Firearms Instructor, Austin, Texas

Fatima Mann  Co-founder, Counter Balance: ATX

John E. Price PhD  History, Penn State University

Harel Shapira, PhD  Sociology, University of Texas Austin, Waiting for Jose

Robert Trausch  Community Organizer, Chico Housing Action Team, Chico, CA

Cody Wilson  Founder, Defense Distributed


Sue Hilderbrand  Director/Producer

Sue is a political talk show host and college professor, based in Chico, CA.  In 2016, she set out on a journey across the country to talk with Americans about firearms, and to document the solutions to the gun violence.  What she found was not what she expected.