Ivory tower academics have been trying for years to understand why anyone would want to own a firearm. The answers (self-defense, 2A rights, simple enjoyment) are obvious enough, but that doesn’t stop our scholarly class from conducting studies and surveys that purport to reveal the mysterious mind of the gun-owning public.
The latest example comes from the University of Kansas, where two researchers set out to find a link between owning a firearm and being religious. Their paper, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Gun Ownership,” argues that religious peoples’ fears of Satan, Hell, Armageddon, and demons prompts them to pursue gun ownership as a means of protection.
Gun ownership, they say, is part of a larger “ethic” that frames the world as a battle between “good and evil,” and “belief in supernatural evil is bound up in policy attitudes that protect or expand gun rights.”
Or, as co-author Abbie Vegter told Deseret News, acquiring a gun stems from a “posture of fear” and a sense of a “duty to defend — a willingness to kill when necessary.”
The researchers interviewed 62 Kansas gun owners (66 men and 7 women) to draw their conclusions about gun owners more broadly. Most of the people they interviewed identified as nondenominational Christians, Baptists and evangelicals, though they also spoke with a few Catholics, a Buddhist, and a Wiccan.
To each of the participants, they posed the question, “Do you consider yourself a religious person? Do you feel that your religion or spirituality influences your gun ownership? Do you believe in evil? Satan? Hell? What can we do about the gun violence in this country?”
One participant named Gloria was apparently nudged by the suggestion embedded in the researchers’ question.
“I guess it goes back to good and evil,” she is reported as saying. “I would hope that I would always choose the good side, and sometimes that means that you’ve got to get rid of the bad guy.”
Vegter and her co-author, Margaret Kelley, argued that religious people believe they answer to a higher power than the government, which gives them the right to take a situation into their own hands.
“The mentality is: ‘I’m answering (not to the law but) to a power that has given me that right,’” Vegter told Deseret News.
As evidence for this, researchers point to Regan, a 39-year-old white nondenominational Christian, who said, “I believe in a higher authority than government.” She added that “government is not a savior for anybody; they’re human beings.”
Religious and non-religious people alike have been flocking to their local gun stores in recent weeks. Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and the presidential election, these new and veteran gun owners broke records for firearms purchases in March, June, July, and November.