Late in 2020 an editor from the online magazine Discourse contacted me to see if I wanted to write anything about my work on American gun culture for them. The invitation provided an excellent opportunity for me to formalize some of my scattered thoughts on the Great Gun-Buying Spree of 2020. I quickly agreed.
Early in 2020 I wrote an entry on this blog asking “Who are the liberal gun owners?” I was responding to media interest in liberals who own guns in an election year. In response to an inquiry from the Associated Press, I did some quick and dirty analyses using data from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, but was left wanting to know more.
I was fortunate to find two sociology graduate students from Baylor University to collaborate with me on a more systematic analysis of these same data, Jesse DeDeyne and Alonso Alonso Octavio Aravena Méndez. Together, we recently published our article in the journal Sociological Inquiry.
The COVID-19 pandemic compounded by the George Floyd protests and riots mixed with the boogaloo/CW2/Great Awakening V leading up to a hotly contested presidential election created a literally unprecedented gun buying spree in 2020.
This post collects various blog posts, stories, and studies I have come across that I think have some value. If you know of other works to be included, please post them in the comments.
With thanks to Rocket Armory for the slogan and visual, liberals own guns, too.
This is a point I have made before. Approximately 20% of all gun owners in the United States — at least 12 million American adults — self-identify as liberal (compared to 36% of moderates and 45% of conservatives).
Although there is a connection between conservative politics and gun ownership, multivariate statistical analyses wash over interesting diversity within the gun owning population. In my Sociology of Guns seminar, I focus some of our limited time on this interesting subgroup.
Although it does not tell us everything we want to know, “Pandemics, Protests, and Firearms” by Bree and Matthew Lang (economists at the University of California at Riverside) offers some interesting insights. It is available for download on the SSRN website while it makes its way through the peer review process.
The main sources of “false negatives” (people who own guns but tell survey researchers they do not) are (1) people who don’t want outsiders to know they have guns, (2) people who want to avoid the stigma of gun ownership, and (3) people who cannot legally own firearms but do anyway.
Listening to my Sociology of Guns seminar students this semester has highlighted another group of non-gun owning gun owners. Of 16 total students in my class, 3 mentioned that their otherwise non-gun owning parents actually had guns in their homes.
Photo of family heirloom firearms from Sociology of Guns student
The great gun buying spree(s) of 2020 have raised the issue of NEW GUN OWNERS. We have no reliable data on how many of those millions of NICS checks being run this year are for people who are buying a gun for the first time. Anecdotal evidence suggests a short answer of A LOT.
In these trying times, can we at least all agree that guns are politically polarizing in the United States? Not inherently, of course, but they get drawn up into our divisive political system and culture in a profound way.
I’m pleased to share political scientist Mark R. Joslyn’s reflection on how emotions drive reasoning and division on the gun issue, for better or worse.
These reflections are part of a broader project Joslyn has been working on concerning the politics of gun ownership (see more about the author at the end). Based on this essay, I am really looking forward to getting my hands on his just released book, The Gun Gap: The Influence of Gun Ownership on Political Behavior and Attitudes. See this flyer with more information on the book and order online from Oxford University Press with promo code ASFLYQ6 to save 30%.