Southern Culture and Defensive Gun Ownership




Gonzalez, Efrain Pablo

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A long tradition of theory and research has suggested that southerners are especially prone to own firearms for defensive reasons. This study offers the most thorough assessments of alternative hypotheses regarding elevated rates of southern defensive gun ownership Data from the Guns in American Life Survey (GALS), a nationwide online survey of 3,103 U.S. adults, are analyzed to address several issues: (a) Are southerners more prone to own guns primarily or exclusively for protective reasons? (b) Does this verdict depend upon whether southerners are classified via 1/U.S. Census regional classification or 2/residence in the Confederate South (i.e., slave-owning states)? 3/Do any observed regional differences depend upon variations in any of the following: (a) approval of violence in defensive or retaliation, (b) punitiveness, (c) anti-black racism, (d) political conservatism, (e) anti-government sentiment and (f) early gun socialization and current gun networks. Statistical analysis confirms that (a) southerners are more likely to own guns for defensive reasons, (b) there are no significant differences in regional gun ownership and cultural explanations between the US Census South and the Confederate South, and (c) cultural mediators had a slight effect on regional gun ownership, suggesting a cultural component to southern gun ownership. Several implications of the research findings are discussed and evaluated, as well as limitations and directions for future research.


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firearms, gun ownership, guns, region, South, southerners