The report by researchers at Australia’s Monash University and Britain’s Manchester University looked at how racism among whites and gun ownership is linked. The report used data from the American National Election Study and scored people based on their ‘symbolic racism,’ which is used to measure anti-black sentiments. Besides keeping a gun at home, they were also more likely to oppose gun control reforms.
Thursday, October 31, 2013, 5:01 PM
Stephen Barton (center), a survivor of the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings, bows his head during a moment of silence on Sept. 19 at the Mayors Against Illegal Guns press conference and rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Racism and guns go together.
That’s the finding of an international study released Thursday that says the two are linked. More specifically, odds are greater that a racist white American also keeps a gun at home and opposes gun control regulations.
The conclusion wasn’t too surprising for researchers at Australia’s Monash University and Britain’s Manchester University, which sought to better understand American gun culture.
“There had already been research showing that … blacks are more likely to be shot, so we thought there must be something happening between the concept of being black and some whites wanting guns,” Monash researcher Kerry O’Brien said in an email to the Daily News.
He also found that political leanings and geography play a part into firearm ownership.
“It is particularly noteworthy that the relationship between symbolic racism and the gun-related outcomes was maintained in the presence of conservative ideologies, political affiliation, opposition to government control and being from a southern state, which are otherwise strong predictors of gun ownership and opposition to gun reform,” said the study, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE .
The report used data from the American National Election Study and scored people based on their “symbolic racism,” which is used to measure anti-black sentiments.
Since judging someone as racist can be subjective, the study ranked racism based on how participants answered a series of questions.
Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
Gallup poll data from 2007-2012 released earlier this year found that 50% of U.S. gun owners are white men and 64% are southern married men. Black gun owners totaled 21%.
One question asked, “How well does the word ‘violent’ describe most blacks?” and participants were given five responses to choose from, ranging from “extremely well” to “not at all well.”
An “extremely well” response was seen as an endorsement of a stereotype.
For those with increased scores in symbolic racism, the odds also grew that they owned a gun and supported concealed carry laws.
O’Brien said researchers in Australia and Britain were interested in America’s gun debate following recent mass shootings, such as in Newtown, Conn., and data that suggests blacks are more likely to die from gun violence even though mostly whites own firearms.
“As distant and dispassionate observers growing up in countries where there is 36 times less gun-related deaths — and gun ownership is extremely rare and well-regulated — we couldn’t make sense of why there would be resistance to gun reform in the U.S.,” O’Brien said. “Most of the logic for wanting to have a gun was illogical.”
He said that clamping down on gun violence and murder rates is tricky if U.S. whites continue to oppose strong gun reform more than other racial groups.
U.S. policymakers may have to consider implementing new policies even if it’s against popular opinion, the study found.
“It would be good to see the U.S. government dedicate more funding to research on this issue, and to look at how our own, sometimes unconscious biases may influence our policy decisions,” O’Brien said.
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