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White American men cling to guns out of economic hardship

When researchers set out to gain a better understanding of how American gun owners perceive firearm ownership, they found that white men who are financially stressed are more likely to cling to their guns for moral support.

A research team at Baylor University analyzed data on gun owners from across the United States and established a link between economic stress and gun ownership. White males who feel that their financial security is threatened often develop an emotional attachment to their firearms.

In addition, the experts determined that this particular group of white males is more likely to consider violence against the United States government as being justified.

Paul Froese is a Sociology professor at Baylor and co-author of the study.

“This speaks to the belief in some ‘dark state’ within the government which needs fighting,” said Froese. “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.’”

Nonwhite gun owners, however, place much less value on their guns in times of financial hardship, according to the study authors. Nonwhites are also less inclined to justify violence against the government.

Froese explains that these individuals have most likely “developed different coping mechanisms” to deal with economic stress.

The researchers used data from a Gallup poll of 1,572 Americans in January 2014, which included 577 gun owners. The participants were asked about the types of guns they owned, why they owned firearms, their attitudes toward gun policies, and their feelings on violence against the government.

The research team identified differences between gun owners and non-owners. They found that gun owners were more likely to be white, male, married, older, earn more, and live in rural areas. In addition, gun owners reported being more conservative, attending church regularly, and feeling more alienated from society compared to those individuals who did not own guns.

There were also notable differences among the gun owners when it came to their sense of authority.

“Simply owning a gun does not predict an individual will express anti-gun control opinions, but rather whether the person feels empowered by the gun,” said Froese. “The emotional and moral connection explains variation within the population of gun owners.”

The findings of the study are published in the journal Social Problems.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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