New Data on New Gun Owners and Gun Policy Preferences

Like many, I have been touting the changing face of gun owners, especially in connection with the great gun buying spree of 2020+. I have discussed this in Discourse Magazine in February 2021, at the Outdoor Writers Association of American annual conference in October 2021, in Episode 3 of my “Light Over Heat” video series on YouTube in January 2022, and elsewhere.

In fact, I was discussing the diversity of Gun Culture 2.0 even before COVID, as in my lunchtime keynote lecture to the National Firearms Law Seminar in April 2019.

Beyond recognizing the diversity of new gun buyers, I have also argued that being a person who owns a gun does not automatically make someone a “gun owner” in terms of their identity. Not developing a gun owner identity could limit new gun owners’ engagement with gun culture more broadly or with Second Amendment advocacy specifically (per political scientist Matthew Lacombe).

Some recent data on new gun owners and gun policy preferences (H/T The Trace’s Daily Bulletin) show that I may be, as is often the case, only half-right.

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago recently included some questions about gun buying in their ongoing AmeriSpeak Panel survey (March 3-7, 2022). In a press release yesterday, they highlight two key findings.

First, compared to pre-pandemic gun owners, pandemic gun buyers are younger, more racially diverse, and more likely to be unmarried. These findings are not surprising but it is good to see them confirmed once again.

I will be interested to see what the AmeriSpeak data show with respect to gender and political leanings, too.

Second, and here is where I may have gotten things wrong, pandemic first-time gun buyers look very much like pre-pandemic gun owners in favoring permissive gun policies such as allowing people to carry concealed guns in more places, allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns in K-12 schools, allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit, and shortening waiting periods for people who want to buy guns legally.

Whether their similarity to pre-pandemic gun owners made them more likely to become pandemic first-time gun buyers in the first place (selection) or whether buying a gun brought them in line with existing gun owners in terms of policy preferences (treatment) or some combination of both is unknown.

Whether I am actually wrong in my speculation about the 2A politics of new gun owners also remains to be seen. But these data definitely temper my earlier views.

9 thoughts on “New Data on New Gun Owners and Gun Policy Preferences

  1. I live in NJ and the state associated every year run what was called Family day at the range and often a Woman’s day at the range. The huge diversity of people that attended was very reflective of the demographics of NJ itself. Also may were people who never had fired a firearm before and were curious. The event allowed people to shoot just about any type of firearm in a variety of formats, a variety of small bore rifles, hi-power rifles, shotguns, black powder rifles, handguns of various types and calibers and so forth. A good number of people afterwards express interest in do more or learning more.
    Also just recently a friend who had never fired a firearm before decided they wanted to possibly obtain a handgun for self defense. They took a hands on class and ended up getting their FID and buying a pistol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Missing a word here Professor: “Not developing a gun owner identity could ____ new gun owners’ engagement with gun culture more broadly or with Second Amendment advocacy specifically (per political scientist Matthew Lacombe).”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not a sociologist and don’t play one on TV, but I have a hunch that once someone buys a gun, they suddenly are faced with, and develop a critical attitude towards, the mounds of governmental red tape and regulation that some government entities want to inflict on them. Its one thing to think about buying a gun for self defense as an abstraction. Quite another do try to do so and find out about all the hoops some states and localities put in one’s way.

    Secondly, the mere act of buying a gun for self defense, i.e., GC 2.0, means someone has bought into the idea that having a firearm to defend against that rare but possible nasty moment may mean the person also extends that idea to a trusted school official, etc.

    I still think it is in the firearm fraternity’s best interest to provide free teaching opportunities to learn to shoot well and learn the lethal force laws in their state. The fewer mistakes, the better. Range and classroom time would be good. Or at least know where to find Mas Ayoob’s Youtube channel!


  4. for anyone interested there is a new blog:
    described as: Standing His Ground: A legal blog on self-defense, gun control, and the Second Amendment by Robert Leider. Who is an Assistant Professor of Law at Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University.


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