Racism linked with gun ownership among US whites

After a white supremacist murdered six Sikh worshipers last year in at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, the relationship between racist attitudes, gun ownership and/or acts of violence has been topical on this blog. It is for this reason that a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE drew some attention.

The study completed at The University of Manchester and entitled “Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions” suggests a correlation between racist attitudes and gun ownership among whites:

After accounting for numerous other factors such as income, education and political ideology, the researchers found that for each one point increase (on a scale from one to five) in symbolic racism there was a 50 percent increase in the odds of having a gun in the home and a 28 percent increase in support for policies allowing people to carry concealed guns.

While there is predictably some dissent from ideologically right-leaning quarters about this conclusion, the results of the study should not be misinterpreted. The findings demonstrate a correlation between gun ownership and racism among whites but do not imply causation:

Kerry O’Brien, Walter Forrest, Dermot Lynott, and Michael Daly are not suggesting that beliefs about guns are caused by (modern) white racism. Likewise, they are not arguing that having a gun necessarily makes one more likely to be a racist. O’Brien and company are not claiming that all conservatives are racists or bigots; nor, does their research indicated that all gun owners are racists.

The study dovetails with a separate analysis completed previously by the Pew Research Center in 2010, which showed a racial divide in opinions about gun control:

A Pew Research Center survey in 2010 shows racial disparity on opinions about gun control. (Source: Pew Research Center.)

A Pew Research Center survey in 2010 shows racial disparity on opinions about gun control. (Source: Pew Research Center.)

The Pew study demonstrated that whites prioritized the rights to own guns over gun control compared to black and Hispanic cohorts. However, the University of Manchester study suggests that gun ownership is not only a political issue, but one that is also tied to racism.

Read the full study at PLOS ONE.


  1. Pingback: Drets civils i racisme: l’assignatura pendent d’Obama | Extramurs


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