Gun violence costs the American economy $229 billion each year: report
It’s not just about crime.
Americans own a total of 265 million guns, with roughly one in three Americans possessing at least one gun. And some of us are particularly into gun ownership — 3% of Americans own half of all the guns in America at an average of 17 apiece, according to a study by researchers at Harvard and Northwestern.
What’s driving this trend? For many years, experts and polls cited a fear of specific crimes — like murder or terrorism — as the driving force behind gun ownership.
But the authors of a study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on Thursday found that there isn’t much “evidence that gun ownership corresponds with objective risk of victimization.” They used an example of a real person to illustrate the point: The man lived in Wickenburg, one of the safest towns in Arizona. And yet he carried a gun “every day to defend himself and his family” — not so much to protect from a specific threat in his community, but from the “dangerous” world at large.
Indeed, while fear of specific crimes is, in fact, a driver for some people owning guns, the issue is bigger than that. It’s about how people see the world, with people who hold the belief that “the world is an unpredictable and dangerous place” being significantly more likely to own a gun, even if they’re not likely to be a victim of a crime. “It is not just concrete, specific threats that change our behavior, but also vague, general ideas about threat,” the authors, who studied roughly 900 people for the article, write.
There’s a political tie to this as well. While a fear of crime is closely related to having been a victim of crime in the past, the general sense that the world is dangerous is “more strongly influenced by a person’s (conservative) political beliefs than by past experience with crime victimization.” Other studies have also shown that conservatives tend to view the world as a more dangerous place than liberals.
Whatever the reasons for America’s love of guns, one thing is clear: Americans are willing to shell out big bucks to get them. Semiautomatic pistols sold on Cabelas.com range from $429.99 to more than $1,000; handgun ammunition can cost upwards of $15 for a box. Plus, you’ll pay for background and safety checks.
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