Recently, a major national research organization asked for my input on a study of gun owners they are launching soon. Since I have taken advantage of their work often in the past, I was happy to share my time and thoughts with them.
Of course I emphasized the importance of trying to understand the phenomenon of Gun Culture 2.0.
Gun Culture 2.0 is centered on armed self-defense, with a strong emphasis on concealed carry. This can be old gun owners who have shifted from the hunting/recreational shooting emphasis of GC1.0, or new gun owners who are getting into guns largely for personal protection (thought to be younger, more female, more racially diverse, more sub/urban).
So, questions about primary reason(s) for gun ownership are good, but also questions about people’s background with guns such as:
How old were you when you acquired your first gun? What motivated your acquisition?
Were there guns in your childhood home? How old were you when you first shot a gun?
It also make sense to (continue to) ask about ownership of different types of guns, because a long-gun only person is much more GC1.0 than a handgun only person who is more GC2.0. (Enough people have asked about how many guns do you own to make that less interesting, and it is not really relevant to the question of GC2.0 IMO.)
In my work on gun ownership using the General Social Survey, I focused on PERSONAL gun ownership rather than HOUSEHOLD gun ownership. Each has its strengths and weakness, so it may make sense to be able to distinguish between the two.
It might also be interesting to ask a question about PLANS TO ACQUIRE GUN for a non-gun owning panel. Like the National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms (NSPOF) (Cook & Ludwig, 1996): Those who replied “no” to their gun ownership question were then asked,
“Are you planning to get a firearm for protection against crime anytime in the next 12 months?”
Of the 2,516 (weighted) Rs who provided a valid (“yes” or “no”) response to the household gun ownership question, 1,550 (61.6%) reported no guns in the household. Of these 1,550 Rs, 108 (7.1%) reported they were planning to get a gun for protection in the next 12 months and 1,404 (90.6%) said they did not.
I think it is high time for someone to again ask a good question about people’s actual practices of gun carrying. I have not seen this since the NATIONAL SELF-DEFENSE SURVEY back in the 1990s. Kleck and Gertz’s 1998 article, “Carrying Guns for Protection” discusses the very careful question about gun carrying they asked:
“In the last 12 months, have you ever carried a gun away from home, either on your person or in a vehicle, for protection against crime? Do not count carrying for recreation or in connection with duties in law enforcement, work as a security guard, or in the armed forces” (emphases in original survey instrument).
Those who replied “yes” were then asked,
“Was this carrying done on your person-for example, in a pocket, holster, or bag-or was it only in a motor vehicle?”
Those responding “on person” or “both” were then asked,
“About how many days in the past 12 months did you carry a gun on your person for protection against crime?”
Those responding “in vehicle” or “both” were asked,
“About how many days in the past year did you carry a gun in a motor vehicle for protection against crime?”
A simple question about concealed carry permits would be very interesting:
“Do you have a concealed carry permit?”
Also a simple question about people’s use of guns for self-defense (“defensive gun use” or DGU):
“Have you ever used your gun for self-defense against another person?”
“Did you fire the gun?”
“Have you ever used your gun for self-defense against another person, whether you fired the gun or not?”
How often people shoot their guns can be a measure of how central guns are to their lives and their connection to gun culture:
“How often would you say you shoot guns?”
Other measures of involvement in gun culture could be:
- Consumption of gun-related new media: blogs, podcasts, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds
- Web 2.0/3.0 participation in on-line gun forums, Tweeting about guns, etc.
- Consumption of gun-related old media: magazines, radio programs (“Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk”), and TV programs (Outdoor Channel and Sportsmans Channel, especially).
- Participation in shooting matches (IDPA, USPSA, 3-Gun, precision rifle, target, skeet, trap, sporting clays)
- Recreational shooting or “plinking”
- Shooting range or gun club membership
- Attending gun shows
- Other gun related clubs like collector’s associations
- Participation in training or informational classes
- Political activism
WHAT QUESTIONS WOULD YOU ASK IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY?