A recent nationally represented survey done in Baylor’s sociology department revealed that white male gun owners who have struggled economically are most emotionally connected to their guns.
The survey is published in the journal Social Problems and was conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2014, reaching 1,572 people in the United States. The survey is sent out every three to four years, but researchers Dr. F. Carson Mencken, and Dr. Paul Froese, professors of sociology added a new arrangement of questions that regarded guns in relation to safety, patriotism and community.
“I was drawn to the idea of gun culture,” Froese said. “People just refer to gun culture as ownership, but other times it is defined as people’s attitude towards gun policy. We were thinking that maybe there is something other there, so we added questions to the survey about how gun owners felt about their guns and ownership.”
Based on the collected responses on gun policy attitudes, types of guns owned and reasons for ownership, the Baylor study found that nonwhite gun owners, women and children who were challenged by the economy disapproved of violence against the government more than white males who valued guns more highly.
“There is something specific about white men and those emotionally attached to their guns,” Forese said. “They are the ones most likely to say it’s okay to use violence against the government. This can be seen as a patriotic, but they also believe that the government is a force of potential evil.”
Killeen sophomore Sam Walker is a white male, self-proclaimed conservative Southern Baptist and a member of the NRA (National Rifle Association) who agreed that guns empower him patriotically and that current U.S. gun laws have not interfered with his gun rights because he is still able to buy from private independent sellers.
“I believe that I will lose my guns soon with all the gun issues happening,” Walker said. “Right now there is a bill proposed to congress that institutes a ban on devices that increase the rate of fire to weapons, but that could simply be the speed of your finger on the trigger since semi-automatic guns don’t have a set rate of fire. The current gun laws are failing us.”
The study found that religious, white male gun owners are less likely to find power in their guns and that religious affiliations do not correlate with gun attitudes.
“My guns are for protecting me and mine,” Walker said. “What if the person I’m protecting against has a gun? They are equalizers.”
According to Froese, the most important findings were that white men who feel they have suffered economic setbacks are the group of people that have historically been the leaders of society and have had their share of the power and wealth, but now feel that losing gun rights is a diminishing attack on their masculinity and identity.
“The guns becomes a different way of becoming powerful and significant in the community where they feel like they may have lost it elsewhere,” Froese said. “This is not new. Americans own guns at a higher rate than anybody else in the world. But the question is, how do they feel about their guns?”