How many times have you heard firearm owners ridiculed as old, fat, racist, sister-humping hicks who are just too dumb to know any better than to cling to to their guns and their religion? It’s the gun-grabbing left’s invidious, bigoted default image of all firearm-owning Americans. The central illusion that undergirds their elitist self-image and sense of moral superiority.
And thanks to a Scientific American article today, we know that it’s true. Because science!
Jeremy Adam Smith (editor of UC-Berkely’s Greater Good magazine, which “explore(s) the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life”) has written the penetrating explainer, ‘Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?’. Bet you can’t guess the reasons, according to Smith, that white dudes choose to buy firearms. Oh wait…yes you can.
The American citizen most likely to own a gun is a white male—but not just any white guy. According to a growing number of scientific studies, the kind of man who stockpiles weapons or applies for a concealed-carry license meets a very specific profile.
C’mon…you know exactly where this is going.
These are men who are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market, and beset by
Wait for it . . .
Boom! But those gun people aren’t just racist, they’re also dumb. And insecure!
They tend to be less educated. For the most part, they don’t appear to be religious—and, suggests one study, faith seems to reduce their attachment to guns. In fact, stockpiling guns seems to be a symptom of a much deeper crisis in meaning and purpose in their lives. Taken together, these studies describe a population that is struggling to find a new story—one in which they are once again the heroes.
You know, all those icky, Death Wish-ticket-buying people who live in the great, mysterious middle. Those backward-thinking deplorables who don’t want to see women get jobs.
What else do you suppose characterizes gun owners?
But Stroud also discovered another motivation: racial anxiety. “A lot of people talked about how important Obama was to get a concealed-carry license: ‘He’s for free health care, he’s for welfare.’ They were asking, ‘Whatever happened to hard work?’” Obama’s presidency, they feared, would empower minorities to threaten their property and families.
Wait, no discussion of penis size? How did that marker slip through the scientific cracks? Never mind. Let’s get back to those bed sheet-wearing gun people.
A 2013 paper by a team of United Kingdom researchers found that a one-point jump in the scale they used to measure racism increased the odds of owning a gun by 50 percent. A 2016 study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that racial resentment among whites fueled opposition to gun control. This drives political affiliations: A 2017 study in the Social Studies Quarterly found that gun owners had become 50 percent more likely to vote Republican since 1972—and that gun culture had become strongly associated with explicit racism.
Now that Smith has a good taxonomy of genus: gun owner, what to do about the problem?
That and many other studies suggest that restricting the flow of guns and ammunition would certainly save lives.
Of course. No approach would be complete without restricting those weapons of war. But legislation alone won’t do it. These poor benighted people also need a spiritual makeover.
But no law can address the absence of meaning and purpose that many white men appear to feel, which they might be able to gain through social connection to people who never expected to have the economic security and social power that white men once enjoyed.
“Ridicule of working-class white people is not helpful,” says Angela Stroud. “We need to push the ‘good guys’ to have a deeper connection to other people. We need to reimagine who we are in relation to each other.”
If they stopped ridiculing the working class, most anti-gun politicians wouldn’t have much else to say. Plus there’s the fact that the strategy has worked so well for them lately. Long story short, despite all that scientific data, don’t expect any changes in approach from our friends in the civilian disarmament industrial complex any time soon.