I’ve been asked to comment in the media on gun raffles to raise money for charity twice in the past month, which is a lot considering I’ve never been asked to comment on gun raffles before.
I spoke to NPR for a story in early June, and yesterday I was interviewed by one of the local TV stations in Charlotte about them.
No doubt these are evidence of the “insanity” of American gun culture for those who don’t care for guns, but they highlight the reality that for a large portion of the American population, guns are normal and normal people use guns.
The TV story I was in was very short, so read on for some additional thoughts I shared on gun raffles that didn’t make the cut.
(1) Raffles are legal and guns are legal. Combining the two is legal. All legitimate gun raffles, including the one in NC, require winners to pass a background check in order to take possession of the gun.
(2) Charities raffle things that people value to incentivize donations. E.g., despite the harm it causes in society many groups use alcohol raffles to raise money for charity. Guns are a commodity some people value.
(3) Why, then, is a gun raffle scandalizing? It is scandalizing because some people largely associate guns with crime and deviance and/or find guns distasteful.
(4) Insofar as people’s people’s intuitions and cultural perceptions of risk shape their opinions in general, we see systematic differences in people’s views on guns that map onto whether a gun raffle is scandalizing.
Here, the earlier NPR story on gun raffles captures more significant observations:
“We really live in some distinctly different worlds with respect to guns,” Yamane says.
“You know that some people live in a world in which they only think of guns in connection with … inner city violence or random mass shootings, whereas other people live in situations where guns are a very perfectly normal part of their everyday life,” Yamane says.
In NPR, I compare Manhattan, Kansas to Manhattan, New York. In this case, it’s Bessemer City (pop 5,500) and its 168x bigger city neighbor 25 miles to the east Charlotte (pop 873,570).
(5) As I note in the WSOC-TV story, some of the highest-profile mass shootings involved AR-15 style rifles. Not included is the fact that the (to be published) Harvard/Northeastern 2021 National Firearms Survey estimates that over 11M own nearly 25M AR-15 styles rifles. Georgetown University Professor William English finds that 30.2% of gun owners have owned AR-15 style rifles (around 25 million people).
(6) I’m sure it doesn’t make those scandalized by gun raffles feel any better, but in the 19th century, the San Francisco Chronicle used to incentivize subscriptions by giving away revolvers.
(7) The WSOC reporter asked me if there could be a meeting in the middle on this. As much as I favor the via media, I said I didn’t think those who were holding the raffle were doing anything wrong and so there didn’t need to be movement on that side.
Those who are scandalized by the youth baseball rally should take a ride to Bessemer City and chat with people like the two African-American men interviewed who didn’t see anything wrong with the raffle as long as the guns were transferred legally.