Study: White male gun owners with economic stress are more likely to feel morally attached to guns

Posted at 12:42 PM, Nov 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-27 13:47:24-05

White male gun owners with economic stress are more likely to feel morally attached to guns, a Baylor University study says.

Researchers F. Carson Mencken, Ph. D and Paul Froese, Ph. D., professors of sociology at Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences, conducted the study "Gun Culture in Action" with a survey of 1,572 respondents in the 48 contiguous states. 

Mencken and Froese analyzed data from the 2014 Baylor Religion Survey to develop a "gun empowerment" scale that shows white men under economic stress find guns morally and emotionally restorative.

“Gun control for these owners has come to represent an attack on their masculinity, independence and moral identity,” Froese said.

The data found that white male gun owners who are also highly religious are less likely to find guns emotionally empowering. The researchers defined highly religious in terms of church attendance and religious belief. The researchers said white men with few connections to religious communities are most connected to their guns.

The study also says this group is more likely to say violence against U.S. government is sometimes justified.

“What’s paradoxical is that white male gun owners in the U.S. see themselves as hyper-patriotic, but they are the first to say, ‘If the government impedes me, I have the moral and almost patriotic right to fight back.’,” Froese said. 

Other findings the study found include:

  • On average gun owners are more likely to be white, male, married, older and rural
  • Gun owners are politically more conservative and report feeling more alienated from society
  • Gun owners generally attend church more often and report greater levels of religiosity, but those who find empowerment in the symbol of the gun are low on religious participation.
  • Gun owners are not statistically more likely to report that they or a loved one had been threatened by a gun
  • Gun owners report similar levels of overall happiness.

“It’s not just money from gun manufacturers shaping gun legislation,” Froese said. “It is the cultural solidarity and commitment of a sub-group of Americans who root their identity, morality and patriotism in gun ownership. This is gun culture in action.”  

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