In their never-ending quest to determine why anyone would want to own something as frightening as a firearm, the egg-heads think they have an answer.
To combat a world that no longer “expressly favors them,” white men deal with economic insecurity by owning guns and pretending to be John Wayne.
Here’s how researchers at Baylor University put it:
“We demonstrate that white men in economic distress find comfort in guns as a means to reestablish a sense of individual power and moral certitude.” In other words, “economic distress enhances the extent to which white men, specifically, come to rely on the semiotic power of a cultural symbol… [they] utilize guns as a foundational source of power and identity.”
The study’s authors set out to determine a better way to measure and describe the reasons for gun ownership in the United States. Dissatisfied with the generic term “gun culture,” they decided to focus on what guns mean to individual gun owners.
They developed an “empowerment” scale, and asked 577 individuals whether their guns made them feel “safe, responsible, in control, valuable, respected, and/or patriotic.” Based on their response to this question, researchers determined their level of “empowerment.”
Here’s how the various demographics broke down:
As you can see from the chart, those whose firearms make them feel most empowered are white, male, and have high levels of economic precarity and social alienation. They are extremely conservative and believe that violence against the government might one day be necessary.
On the other end of the spectrum, those whose firearms make them feel least empowered are non-white, female, and expressed moderate political views.
To be fair, the study makes some interesting points about the diversity of the modern American gun owner. But to any member of the various gun cultures in the United States, the report reads like a scientist attempting to understand an alien life form.
At one point the authors hypothesize that guns have become “objects of worship” and “sources of sacred meaning.” Here’s the gem they use to prove their point:
Randall Collins (2004) notes that “many individuals who are intensely involved with guns spend much of their leisure time reloading ammunition … the long hours spent on reloading ammunition suggests that this is a ritualistic affirmation of the membership, something like a member in a religious cult engaging in private prayer, in actual physical contact with the sacred objects, like fingering the beads of rosary” (p. 101).
(Next time you’re reloading, don’t forget to offer your sacrificial lamb to the gun gods! It might help shrink those group sizes.)
The authors also make a strange distinction throughout their report between “handguns” and “semi-automatic” firearms. They talk about “semi-automatic gun bans,” so they seem to be referring to semi-automatic rifles. But they don’t appear to understand that handguns can also be semi-automatic.
They conclude by offering a hypothesis as to why gun control legislation has failed to pass. According to the authors, “a vocal and passionate minority of gun owners continues to feel emotionally and morally dependent on guns.” These individuals hold a “deep commitment to gun rights and frontier masculinity,” which makes them a powerful political force in D.C.
In the final sentence the authors note that the failure of gun control legislation is not only due to money from gun manufactures and the NRA. The survival of Second Amendment rights has just as much (if not more) to do with the millions of American gun owners who stand in solidarity against those who would diminish the freedoms granted in the Constitution.
At least they get one thing right.