Newsweek is reporting about a study by two Baylor University sociology professors that suggests “white men who own firearms and have lost financial stability, or think they soon will, find moral and emotional solace in their guns.”
When International Business Times reported on the study Monday, it headlined the story thusly: “Gun Addiction: White Men Emotionally Attached To Firearms, Study Says.”
Is this yet another attempt to portray gun owners as a bunch of white guys with psychological problems? In the past, gun owners have been stereotyped as men with masculinity problems, or as low-IQ types. The report may be read here.
Expect this new work, by Professors Carson Mencken and Paul Froese, to inspire more of the same. Newsweek quotes Froese stating, “Gun control for these owners has come to represent an attack on their masculinity, independence and moral identity.”
And the International Business Times further stokes the fire by reporting, “The people who have the strongest emotional attachment to their guns are white guys who are under financial stress, according to new research. Those guns might be a way for people who are feeling powerless to gain some form of control.”
According to a published statement from Baylor, the study is titled “Gun Culture in Action” and it appears in the journal Social Problems. It says Mencken and Froese “analyzed data from the 2014 Baylor Religion Survey to develop a ‘gun empowerment’ scale.” What they found, according to the narrative, is that “white males under economic stress find guns morally and emotionally restorative, triggering an attraction to the ‘frontier gun’ symbolism of freedom, heroism, power and making communities safer.”
But what about women, and men from other ethnic groups?
According to Newsweek, “Other demographic groups, such as women and nonwhite males, don’t place as much importance on guns, the study shows. The professors also found that gun owners on average are typically white, male, married, older and living in rural areas.”
This may come as a surprise to the growing number of women who are getting involved in the shooting sports, and have guns for other reasons, primarily personal protection.
The study also gets around to gun legislation, and concludes, in part, that times have changed but white male gun owners do not appear to be changing with the times. The authors note that, “gun laws have not been strengthened and gun narratives remain ubiquitous; we expect this is the case because a vocal and passionate minority of gun owners continues to feel emotionally and morally dependent on guns.”
It will be up to individual readers to decide whether this research contributes more to the debate about gun rights and gun ownership than just another stereotype.