Study Examines Relationship Between Racism and Gun Ownership in America

A new study from researchers at the University of Kansas, the University of Miami, and the University of Texas San Antonio has examined the relationship between race, gun ownership, and gun control policies in the United States. The results did not find that White gun owners were more likely to hold racist attitudes than non-gun owners. However, the study did find a link between racist beliefs and negative attitudes about gun control policies.

To conduct their study, the researchers used data from the 2018 Guns in American Life Survey which asked 3,000 respondents about their experiences and viewpoints concerning firearms. According to the survey, over 40 percent of households and over 30 percent of adults in America own at least one gun. Although white men have historically been associated with gun ownership, there have been increasing rates of gun ownership among women and minorities since the COVID-19 pandemic.

When measuring racism among the survey’s respondents, the researchers used a new approach which focused on both cognitive racism (awareness of racism) and apathetic racism (lack of empathy towards racism). This method goes beyond simple perceptions of racial bias, providing more specific insight than other methods such as the racial resentment index.

“Contrary to some other scholars, our research showed that white people who hold racist attitudes are no more likely than those who do not to own guns,” says study co-author Margaret Kelley, professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. “We did not examine the question of ‘Are gun owners more likely than non-owners to be racist?’ What we did investigate is whether people who do hold more negative racial attitudes are more likely to oppose gun control and to support concealed carry policies. We found support for this, including among both gun owners and non-owners.”

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