A new study by scholars at the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University finds that Black adults – particularly Black women – with higher levels of education and experiences of discrimination and crime are more likely than other African Americans to own a firearm. The study also found that Black adults who endorsed firearm ownership were more likely to grow up in homes with firearms, had previously shot a firearm, and planned to acquire a firearm in the coming year.
“The higher rates of firearm ownership among highly educated Black women were somewhat surprising to us,” said Michael Anestis, executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center and senior author of the study. “This might reflect a broader shift toward women and persons of color purchasing firearms across the United States in recent years, perhaps as a reaction not only to the turmoil of the pandemic era, but also to frequent highly publicized episodes of police brutality against Black men and women and the surge of gun violence witnessed across the U.S. during that time.”
Black adults who endorsed firearm ownership were also more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than Black adults who did not own firearms, according to the study. This last finding may help explain the sharply increasing rate of firearm suicide among Black U.S. residents.
“For Black Americans, experiences of racism and systemic inequalities may result in the decision to purchase a firearm to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Allison Bond, lead author of the study and a doctoral student with the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center. “Individual and system level prevention and intervention efforts are needed to combat racism, increase secure firearm storage among the Black community and connect those at risk for suicide with evidence-based mental health care.”
The full study, “Examining Characteristics and Experiences of Black Firearm Owners,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. It may be accessed here.