A new paper published Monday in the journal Injury Prevention paints a complete picture of the average gun owner in the United States, as well as a bit about who they are, and what states these people are likely to live in. Its findings shouldn’t surprise anyone, but according to Dr. Bindu Kalesan, the author of the study, it’s necessary to know more about the culture that drives gun ownership before we can start to put an end to gun violence.
The modern gun owner
The study, conduced by gun violence researcher Dr. Kalesan at the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, consisted of an online survey of 4,000 U.S. adults in 2013. Almost 1 in 3 Americans owned at least one gun, but gun ownership varied wildly across state lines, with Alaska at the top and Delaware at the bottom.
According to the survey, the average gun owner is male, married or divorced, has a high income, and is over 55 years old. He’s also more likely to be a member of “social gun culture” than people who don’t own firearms.
So what is “social gun culture?” According to Kalesan’s study, it’s basically peer pressure to conform. If you don’t own a gun, your friends and family would somehow think less of you, and much of your social life with friends and family involves firearms.
According to Kalesan, understanding the social dynamics at work are necessary for changing the greater culture, and the attitudes and practices that it enforces. While speaking to the Huffington Post, Kalesan said:
A public health approach, much like the anti-tobacco effort, is necessary, first to facilitate a social change and then political will to form effective policies. We also need research to understand the public health consequences in different communities and to identify effective social interventions in different populations.
Kalesan concluded, saying, “I feel that being a researcher should not just be about doing research studies. It is impossible not to feel the social responsibility when I speak with gun violence [survivors]. Information is the key to social change.”
And it’s information we need. Ownership of a household gun is correlated with higher rates of firearm suicide. Other studies have shown that more guns means more crime, and for every three people who are killed by gun accidents, another eight can look forward to lives affected severely by their injuries.
This is how it works; you can’t change the opinions of people, but you can change the culture. And this is the approach we should be taking with gun culture in American. It shouldn’t be that hard to convince Americans that gun control is necessary — after all, gun culture is so choked by paranoia it’s a perfect example why gun control is necessary.
Feature image via Wikimedia Commons