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%.
Although I’ve addressed U.S. gun ownership levels previously, I realize that I have done so by looking at percentages of individuals and households rather than numbers. Given changing population sizes (the all important denominator), percentages are usually the relevant indicators.
But sometimes you want to know the actual number, so I am posting this to have these numbers handy when people ask. (How I calculated these numbers after the photo illustration.)
According to Barnard College political scientist Matthew Lacombe, much of the legislative strength of the NRA is due to its ability to politically mobilize guns owners on its behalf. And key to that political “weaponization” has been the cultivation of “gun owner” as a social identity in the first place. (An identity I reflected on from my own perspective in my previous post.)
Whenever someone asks me, “Are you a golfer?” I offer a canned response: “No, but I play golf.” I resist the label golfer. To embrace it seems to heighten expectations in an uncomfortable way.
The same can be said of the label gun owner. Do I own guns? Yes. Is being a gun owner central to my identity? Not really.
In fact, the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report on “America’s Complex Relationship with Guns” highlights differences in the centrality of owning guns to people’s identities. About half of gun owners say being a gun owner is very (25%) or somewhat (25%) important to their overall identity, and half say it is not too important (30%) or not at all important (20%).
Source: Pew Research Center, “America’s Complex Relationship with Guns” (2017).
An interesting nuance in this overall pattern, however, is the ratio of handguns to long-guns sold. As reported by Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (H/T The Trace!), “The ratio of handguns to long-guns sold now stands at a record 1.84, the highest ratio since the introduction of the NICS checks in late 1998.”