White households in the U.S. are more likely to own guns and resist new gun control laws if they exhibit a higher level of racism towards black people, according to a new study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
The study found that for each point a person scored in symbolic racism (anti-black sentiment), there was a 50 percent increase in the odd that they had a gun at home. For every one point in symbol racism, the odds that the person supported permits to carry concealed handguns went up 28 percent.
Researchers at Australia’s Monash University and Britain’s Manchester University say they weren’t surprised by the results.
“There had already been research showing that ... blacks are more likely to be shot, so we thought there must be something happening between the concept of being black and some whites wanting guns,” Monash researcher Kerry O’Brien said in an email to the New York Daily News.
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The study defined “racism”: “Racism is related to policies preferences and behaviors that adversely affect blacks and appear related to a fear of blacks (e.g., increased policing, death penalty).”
Because judging another person as racist is subjective, researchers asked a series of questions and used an implicit association test to see if participants black or white people with positive or negative words.
The study found that people who scored high in symbolic racism also favored policies they viewed as punitive to blacks, like stop-and-frisk and longer prison terms.
“According to a Pew Research Center report the majority of white Americans support stricter gun control,” said O’Brien, “but the results of our study suggest that those who oppose gun reform tend to have a stronger racial bias, tend to be politically and ideologically conservative and from southern states, and have higher anti-government sentiment.”
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The majority of the participants did own a gun.
“Just over half, 52 percent, of the sample had a gun in the home, 66 percent opposed bans on handguns in the home, and 52 percent reported support for permits to carry a concealed handgun,” the study said. “Participants reported being slightly more conservative than liberal, and more Republican than Democratic leaning.”
“Conservative ideology was also significantly related to stronger support for permits to carry concealed handguns after adjusting for other explanatory variables,” the study said. “Similarly, stronger Republican identification, being from a southern state, and anti-government sentiment were associated with opposition to gun-control policies, but not with having a gun in the home.”
Higher education levels were associated with lower odds of having a gun in the home, but had no bearing on whether they support gun control legislation.
“We were initially surprised that no one had studied this issue before,” said co-author Dr. Dermot Lynott of Lancaster University, “however, the US government cut research funding for gun-related research over decade and a half ago, so research in this area has been somewhat suppressed.”