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What is fueling the U.S. Gun Culture?

The U.S. has more guns per person than any other country, a ranking that is unlikely to drop even in the wake of the latest high-casualty mass shootings. Why are guns so pervasive here when they take so many lives? Which Americans are the most strongly tied to their guns—and why?

Baylor University sociologists F. Carson Mencken and Paul Froese tackled these questions in a study published last month in Social Problems. They surveyed 577 gun owners about how their guns make them feel, creating a “gun empowerment scale” designed to measure owners’ moral and emotional attachment to their weapons. They also surveyed these owners on what they believe are the principal causes of gun violence, and what they think of various gun policies. Scientific American spoke with Froese about the findings:

1. Gun owners are more likely to be male and white, but of course, there’s diversity within that population. What we found was that people at the highest level of the gun empowerment scale, as we called it, were 78 percent white and 65 percent male, and much more substantial than just a gun issue—was that it was white men who had experienced an economic setback who were most attached to their guns.

That suggests to me that there’s something cultural happening. We have white men who have expectations about what it means to be a white man in America today that are not being met. Economic realities are changing in the United States, and there’s this whole population of working-class white men who feel embittered, in the sense that maybe they don’t feel as economically successful or as powerful in their communities as they think they should be. For those men, we find that the gun has become a symbol through which they’re trying to regain a nostalgic sense of masculinity.

Women and nonwhites who suffer from economic setbacks are not more likely to find empowerment in weaponry. They’re apparently finding it somewhere else if they are finding it at all.

2. Gun owners who are deeply attached to a religious community are less likely to feel empowered by their weaponry. This suggests that the white men who are genuinely attached to their guns are using guns as a substitute for other cultural sources of meaning and identity. We had this group of white men in the U.S. who were benefitting from hierarchies of power and economic inequalities that gave them a sense of self and purpose. When they lost that—or they perceived that they were losing that—they searched for other ways of feeling masculine, and the gun was a natural segue.

3. Our findings speak to something even deeper than the gun issue—and that is that amongst white men who are feeling economically embattled is a search for narratives to explain their experiences. Some of the narratives that they are attracted to are narratives of embattlement—the idea that there are forces out there that are trying to undermine them. Much of conservative media says that the government is always out to get you—out to take away your guns and your money—and so these kinds of narratives all feed together. What’s so fascinating is that you have a group of Americans—again, namely white males—who proclaim that they’re patriots. And, in fact, they say that their gun ownership makes them feel patriotic. But they’re the group that’s most likely to say that it’s okay to take up arms against the government.

4. People who were very high on the gun empowerment scale were the ones who had the most pro-gun gun policy attitudes. They were the ones most likely to say that arming the public will make them safer and arming teachers will make schools safer—so there is this kind of belief or faith in the “good guys with guns can solve a problem” narrative. That narrative is not supported empirically, but at the same time it’s repeated, and it plainly has a lot of believers. If your source of identity is gun ownership and you think it makes you a better member of your community, it would create some cognitive dissonance to turn around and say, “Well, actually, we need to make sure not many people have guns.”

A core theme in all of my research is the human search for meaning. Many people find meaning through religion, but that’s not the only way. The gun was a great topic to study because on some level it’s a lot simpler than religion because it’s one thing. It’s an object, and it has particular purposes, so we can home in on how somebody feels about a gun and then get a sense of how emotionally and spiritually attached they are to the weapon. I’m not particularly interested in the gun policy itself but rather in how meaning and cultural symbols affect people’s understanding of the world, which in turn then makes us to better able to understand their actions.

Teachers were heroes as Florida politicians cower before the NRA

Another mass shooting. Seventeen families inducted into an exclusive club no one ever wants to join. Eighteen school shootings in the first 45 days of 2018.

Along with the hollow political chorus of “thoughts and prayers” by folks enriched by NRA cash, we are told to “see something, say something.” Well, here goes. I’ve worked as a full-time volunteer public-education activist for ten years. I’ve advocated, written, researched and lived through my own children the systematic, politically driven effort to dismantle public education in Florida.

I see a glorious public asset, our schools, torn apart brick by brick every year by politicians taking orders from the likes of Jeb Bush and the Koch brothers. I see our public-school funding hollowed out as legislators write bills brokered by vendors in exchange for campaign cash. I see disbelief and sorrow in the impossible fight to overcome a 3:1 GOP to Democrat ratio, where the odds are never in our kids’ favor. I see political leadership maligning teachers as “evil,” making educators their whipping boy, refusing professional pay, stripping classroom autonomy, threatening to dismantle their union, marginalizing teaching certificates.

What we lack are courageous lawmakers ready to lay down their political lives to make this a priority.

Despite all of this, I see the sheer, undeniable power of brave teachers standing between evil and our children every time. What other non-law-enforcement profession would face death for our kids? Football Coach Aaron Feis ran as fast as he could into harm’s way, using his body to shield his students. This American hero laid down his life for our children Wednesday.

"I managed to get 19 kids in the closet with me. Society failed these kids today," Melissa Falkowski, a journalism teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told CNN just hours after the shooting. She and all the other teacher heroes kept terrified teenagers quiet, knowing that each of them was someone’s precious baby.

I see politicians standing in extreme denial of the obvious. They have grossly defunded school counselors, social workers, behavior specialists and psychologists, the very professionals best suited to identify and help troubled kids. It says a lot about priorities when funding pays for only one psychologist for six schools filled with thousands of students. I see recalcitrance on the part of politicians who will not even utter the words “sensible gun control” for fear of losing millions in NRA political-action-committee dollars. Ironically, earning an A+ from the NRA is more important than putting all options on the table to find a way to save lives.

I see folks on social media parroting cable news talking points instead of examining the cold, hard truth. Each of us had better take a long look in the mirror. Why are we willing to accept the world politicians choose for us? The Second Amendment, sensible gun control and mental-health professionals for schools can all stand on common ground. What we lack are courageous lawmakers ready to lay down their political lives to make this a priority.

I’ve seen teacher after teacher step up in the face of gun violence to protect everything we hold dear and sacred in lives — our children. What does it say about us as a nation, as a state, if we as parents, voters and lawmakers will not find the bravery to do the same? It’s way past time to take “see something, say something” one step forward. It’s time to replace those politicians who will not be part of the solution.

This is the very least that we owe to all of the American heroes like Coach Aaron Feis and Melissa Falkowski, whose bravery puts the rest of us to shame.

Kathleen Oropeza, Orlands Setinel

More guns

How Right to Carry Laws Impact Society

In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, many in the U.S. rallied around the theory that "good guys with guns" make society safer, and that if there had been one present at the school that day, many lives could have been spared.

Years later, this logic persists, thanks in large part to media messaging and lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which maintains the position that responsible gun owners make the U.S. a safer place.

However, two studies from leading public health researchers have found this suggestion to be patently false. One, conducted by researchers at Stanford and Johns Hopkins, and published in 2014, found statistically significant evidence that right-to-carry laws lead to increases in violent crime. The other, a study by a team of Harvard researchers, found overwhelming evidence that the majority of experts on gun crime -- those who have published peer-reviewed studies on the topic and knew the data -- disagree with the NRA.

Right-to-Carry Laws Lead to Increases in Violence Crime

The study out of Stanford and Johns Hopkins considered county-level crime data from 1977-2006 and state-level data from 1979-2010. With data from this longitudinal range, run through a variety of statistical models, it is the first scientifically valid study on the link between right-to-carry laws and violent crime.

The researchers found an estimated 8 percent increase in aggravated assault due to right-to-carry laws and also found that the data suggest that these laws could increase gun assaults by nearly 33 percent.

Additionally, though the effect is not as strong as that on assault, the researchers found that state data for 1999-2010, which removes the confounding factor of the crack cocaine epidemic, show that right-to-carry laws have lead to an increase in homicides. Specifically, they found that homicides increased in eight states that had adopted such laws between 1999 and 2010.

They found that these laws lead to rises in rape and robbery too, though the effect appears to be weaker for these two crimes.

Experts Agree that Guns Make Homes More, Not Less Dangerous

The Harvard study, led by Dr. David Hemenway, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, surveyed about 300 authors of published studies. Hemenway and his team found that the majority views among gun crime experts contradict the long-held beliefs trumpeted by the NRA. The majority of experts agree that having a gun in a home makes that home more dangerous, increases risk of suicide, and increases the risk that a woman living in that home will become the victim of a homicide. They also agree that keeping guns unloaded and locked up reduces the likelihood of suicide, that strong gun laws help reduce homicide, and that background checks can help keep guns outs of the hands of violent people.

Contradicting NRA assertions, the experts disagree that right-to-carry laws reduce crime (which supports the scientific validity of the findings of the first study); that guns are used in self-defense more often than they are used in crime; and that carrying a gun outside the home reduces the risk of being killed.

In fact, none of these claims, by the NRA, are supported by research.

These two studies once again place the spotlight on the critical distinction between scientific evidence, and anecdotes, opinions, and marketing campaigns. In this case, the preponderance of scientific evidence and consensus is that guns make society more dangerous.

The Thought Co.


Studies from the U.S. show that when background checks include restraining orders, fewer women are killed by current or former romantic partners through the use of guns. Further, some studies from the U.S. show that laws that require background checks to include local mental health facility records are associated with fewer gun-related suicides.


Studies that focused on legislation that relaxes gun laws, like stand your ground and right to carry laws, and the repeal of existing laws leads to an increase in gun-related homicides. So, contrary to the belief of the NRA and many others in the U.S., right to carry laws do not reduce gun violence.

★ What Europe thinks of the US gun addiction

NOTE: The articles on these pages are mostly nonsense. For God’s sake, do not believe or attempt any of them! They are here as a testament to the stupidity and gullibility of humans, and proof that snake oil salesmen are still alive and prospering in the 21st century