The Weekly Reload Podcast

Ashley Hlebinsky on the University of Wyoming's New Firearms Research Center

March 13th, 2023

On this week's episode, we're exploring a new effort to make firearms law and history a specific academic pursuit.

Ashley Hlebinsky joins the show to tell us about the University of Wyoming's Firearms Research Center. She is the former curator of the Cody Firearms Museum who helped found the new center. She explains what she and a top law professor at the school hope to accomplish with the effort.

Hlebinsky said the goal is to develop gun research as a unified topic of study. She said the center is hoping to bring scholars from around higher education to work together at events and on different projects. That includes working with other institutions, including Duke University's Center for Firearms Law.

However, she said the UW center also plans to work with people, like herself, who don't have advanced degrees but have tremendous experience working with historic firearms. Hlebinsky argued museum curators, researchers, and show hosts have often amassed as much or more knowledge, often from working directly with primary sources, than those with graduate degrees. She wants to identify the best way to harness that knowledge while avoiding the common pitfalls of amateur historical work.

She also addressed critics who have questioned the center accepting funding from some gun company executives. Hlebinsky said the funding wouldn't dictate what conclusions the center's work comes to. She said she had fought to keep the center's work independent, even threatening to resign when some lawmakers sought to control what the center could do.

Hlebinsky also shared some of her favorite guns from her time as the curator at Cody Firearms Museum. She pointed to several guns that developed features years or even decades before they received mainstream adoption. And she talked about how video games and movies impacted attendance at the museum in interesting and unexpected ways.

Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I talk about why the major credit card companies have backed away from a plan to add a merchant code for gun stores.