Race, BLM, Gun Ownership, and Views of January 6 Protesters (Light Over Heat #39)

A colleague, Ryan Jerome Lecount of Hamline University, pointed me to a recently published study of how race, support for Black Lives Matter, and gun ownership shape people’s views of protesters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The results are interesting and complex and complement a few previous videos on this channel (see below).

I’m interested to hear others’ thoughts on these findings, particularly whether the findings seem generalizable from this limited sample.

Other “Light Over Heat Videos” I reference in this video are:

New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow, RING THE BELL to receive notifications, and SHARE so others can learn about this work.

Call for Papers on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society”

I have published a few articles/book chapters on gun advertising. My first was an analysis of the rise of Gun Culture 2.0 as reflected in The American Rifleman. I replicated that study using Guns magazine. And most recently examined the portrayal of women (and men) in the Rifleman. If we expand from advertising per se to the marketing of Gun Culture 2.0, then I can add my study of the USCCA’s Concealed Carrry Expo to the list.

Because most analyses of gun advertising are impressionistic (and politically motivated), I get quite a few calls from the media about it. Although I welcome the opportunity to correct misunderstandings about the content and effect of gun ads (e.g., Bushmaster’s “Man Card” campaign), I welcome even more a recent “call for papers” I received from a marketing professor, Terrence Witkowski.

Witkowski is guest editing a special issue of the Journal of Macromarketing on “Firearm Markets, Marketing, and Society.” See the full call for papers. The submission deadline is 28 February 2023.

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Gun Owners’ Views of “Good Guys with Guns”

Today NPR and Ipsos released the results of a KnowledgePanel poll of 1,022 adults who own at least one gun. It was conducted from June 15 to 21 in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. The margin of error is +/- 3.3 percentage points.

There are a number of interesting findings, but here I want to highlight just two of them.

In light of my recent argument that we should retire the NRA slogan, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” I was interested to see gun owners split pretty evenly on whether they agree with the statement. 51% of all gun owners agree with the statement, but as the survey shows for various beliefs and attitudes, there is a stark partisan divide: fully 69% of Republican gun owners agree, but only 19% of Democrat gun owners, with Independent gun owners leaning more toward the Democrat side than the Republican, with 44% agreeing.

Screen cap from https://www.npr.org/2022/07/08/1110239487/most-gun-owners-favor-modest-restrictions-but-deeply-distrust-government-poll-fi
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Shooting Guns is Normal

In his excellent book, The Gun Gap, political scientist Mark Joslyn highlights the ways in which gun owners and non-owners live in very different social worlds. For example, non-owners are much more likely than owners to say none of their friends own guns.

Unfortunately, one of the few times these different social worlds come together is in the wake of horrific mass murders. This is probably the worst possible time for people to try to grasp a reality with which they are unfamiliar.

One way to appreciate how common and unproblematic guns are for most Americans comes from the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report, America’s Complex Relationship With Guns.

Pew Question: “Regardless of whether or not you own a gun, have you ever fired a gun?”

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) said YES.

In terms of population, nearly 180 million adults in America have fired a gun (72% of 250 million US population over 18). Even plus or minus 5%, that is a lot of people.

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At What Age Do Americans Get Their First Guns?

As the age at which American adults ought to be able to buy firearms is being discussed in the wake of Buffalo and Uvalde, I want to point to some data on the age at which Americans actually get their first guns.

TL:DR (1) For respondents who say they currently or have ever owned a gun, the average age is 22. (2) Men acquire their first gun at age 19 and women at age 27, on average. (3) 37 percent of those who currently or have ever owned guns first got their own gun when they were under 18 years of age.

The data comes from the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report, America’s Complex Relationship With Guns. I doubt these numbers have shifted much in the past 5 years, but if you know of more recent data on this point, please let me know in the comments or by using the contact form or email me.

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Current Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States

In a recent post, I was critical of a publication in the New England Journal of Medicine called “Crossing Lines–A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children.” Despite the title focusing attention on “children,” the data cited in the article included deaths for individuals 1 to ***24*** years of age, which even in this coddled age stretches the definition of children too far.

I noted in that post, “it may be the case that the leading cause of death among U.S. children has changed. The data provided in this article don’t allow us to answer that question.”

Today I saw another piece in the NEJM that gets us closer to an answer, a letter entitled “Current Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States,” authored by scholars associated with the University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention.

From DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2201761
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The Culture of Fear Over (Gun) Violence Cuts Both Ways

In my just-released “Light Over Heat” YouTube video, I talk about how I am always looking for common ground in the great gun debates that are stalemated in America, including on gun violence prevention. This, of course, does not mean I simply accept research on gun violence at face value.

Raising questions about that research, however, often gives me a bit of an unsettled feeling because I don’t want to be seen as saying homicide, suicide, accidental death, or injury are no big deal.

These things ARE a big deal. They are negative outcomes in society that frequently involve guns that merit our attention and efforts at prevention or mitigation.

In my view, exaggeration so as to create a moral panic around these negative outcomes is a problem. Gun advocates are often criticized for creating a “culture of fear” to motivate gun ownership, but Barry Glassner’s classic analysis of the culture of fear can equally be applied to some gun violence prevention advocates in their efforts to motivate gun de-ownership and regulation.

Case in point: “Crossing Lines–A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children,” published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

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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.

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The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership

Last year I was invited to contribute to a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science by the editors Cassandra Crifasi, Jennifer Dineen, and Kerri Raissian. The theme of this issue is “Gun Violence in America: What Works and What is Possible.”

Specifically, the editors invited me “to write a paper overviewing the evolution of American gun culture – from hunting to gun culture 2.0. Your scholarship in this area will help readers of the special issue understand the role guns play in American culture and how that role has evolved (or not) over time.”

I am always flattered but such invitations, though perhaps I should not be. Maybe the first dozen people they asked said “No”? More likely is the reality that not many scholars have focused their work on gun culture per se, as opposed to adverse outcomes with guns, which is the primary focus of this special issue.

As usual, my participation in these sorts of enterprises reminds me of the Sesame Street song I remember so well from my childhood.

My contribution will focus on the rise of Gun Culture 2.0, the self-defense core of American gun culture today. But I also want to engage what I call “The Standard Model of Explaining the Irrationality of Defensive Gun Ownership” – the primary way gun studies scholars approach Gun Culture 2.0.

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Light Over Heat #6: How Many Americans Own AR-15 Style Rifles and Large-Capacity Magazines?

In Episode 3 of “Light Over Heat,” I mentioned a 2021 National Firearms Survey by Georgetown University Professor William English. In Episode 6, I discuss a couple of interesting findings in that survey.

Among the unique qualities of Professor English’s National Firearms Survey is that he asked respondents whether they owned AR-15 style rifles or large-capacity magazines (holding 10+ rounds of ammunition).

English finds that 30.2% of gun owners have owned AR-15 style rifles (around 25 million people), and 48% have owned 10+ capacity magazines (approximately 40 million people).

(From Episode 2 of “Light Over Heat,” remember these are very conservative estimates of ownership rates given the underreporting of gun ownership in surveys.)

Beyond simply being interesting empirically, these findings are relevant to the legal question of whether certain firearms are in “common use.”

New “Light Over Heat” videos are released on YouTube every Wednesday, so please surf over to my YouTube channel and SUBSCRIBE to follow, RING THE BELL to receive notifications, and SHARE so others can learn about this work.