I wrote yesterday about re-visiting statistics on gun ownership from the 2015 National Firearms Survey for my Sociology of Guns seminar. For class today we also read the report, “America’s Complex Relationship with Guns.” I have posted several times already about this Pew Research Center’s 2017 gun survey, perhaps because I consulted on the survey and so it had an extraordinary number of questions I found interesting. Reading the report again, I found still more interesting nuggets to think about.
I concluded my post yesterday mentioning differences between political liberals and political conservatives in gun ownership, and the idea that a self-defense focused Gun Culture 2.0 can be more inclusive than Gun Culture 1.0.
The Pew Research Center (PRC) report has some interesting findings concerning political differences in orientations toward guns.
In the first place, as we know, Republicans are considerably more likely to report owning guns than Democrats, 41% to just 16%. A similar gap exists when you add those who lean Republican and lean Democrat, 44% vs. 20%.
These political differences are significant because they not only affect rates of gun ownership, but they affect people’s views of the relationship between guns and freedom.
Gun owners and non-gun owners agree on the importance of freedom of speech, the right to vote, the right to privacy, and the free exercise of religion (minimum 85% support, and only 2-3% gaps between the groups).
The importance of the Second Amendment right to own guns does not fare as well as these other Constitutionally protected rights. There is a nearly 40 percentage point gap between gun owners and non-gun owners on whether owning a gun is essential to their own sense of freedom, and only 74% of gun owners themselves embrace this freedom.
On the other hand, 35% of non-gun owners embrace the Second Amendment. I find this interesting and it makes me wonder who these non-gun owning 2A people are.
Here again considering political affiliation and ideology furthers our understanding of these statistics. Looking at gun ownership status and party affiliation at the same time reveals some interesting nuances.
Conservative Republican gun owners almost universally embrace the importance of the right to own guns as essential to their own sense of freedom: 95%. As expected, the least supportive are non-gun owning Liberal Democrats: 16%.
As you work your way through the graph below you can see the intersection of gun ownership status and political party ideology working. And we can see in part the answer to the question I raised above: Who are the 35% of non-gun owning respondents who support the 2A? It is non-gun owning moderate Republicans (53% support) and conservative Republicans (69% support).
Political differences between gun owners also manifest themselves in gaps in opinions on certain measures to expand gun control and gun rights. Blue gun owners are more similar to non-gun owners in many ways than they are to red gun owners.
Approximately 30 percentage point gaps exist between blue and red gun owners on creating a federal database to track gun sales, banning assault-style weapons, and banning high-capacity magazines.
Even larger gaps exist — around 40 percentage points — on gun rights proposals to allow concealed carry in more places and to allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools.
A final difference of note between politically conservative and liberal gun owners has to do with gun carrying. Although not as large as some of the other observed gaps, these data show that 30% of Republican/Leaning Republican respondents carry a handgun outside their home all or most of the time, while 21% of Democrat/Leaning Democrat respondents do. The gap widens when those who carry only some of the time are included.
Even though I don’t address them often on this blog, political differences in gun ownership and among gun owners exist and are consequential.