Are You a Racist If You Own a Gun?

John Lott, Fox News, November 1, 2013

If you believe a new study, whites who own guns do so because they harbor racist feelings towards blacks. Indeed, in the study, four Australian and British psychologists also claim that racism is associated with opposition to gun control.

The lead paragraph on this study in Friday’s New York Daily News summed up the claim this way: “Racism and guns go together.”

So how is racism measured? Well, you are apparently “racist” if you don’t agree that the legacy of slavery still has a great impact on how blacks are faring today. After all, slavery was abolished 158 years ago.

Besides, blacks were doing relatively better on many dimensions, such as family stability, during the early 1960s than today.

Of course, people might disagree with these points, but that doesn’t mean that they are racist.

OK, so conservatives are more likely to own guns than liberals (big surprise there), and they are more likely to believe that people are more responsible for how well they do in life than something that happened to their ancestors over a century and a half ago.

Even more telling, when I examined this data set I found that non-whites and blacks who hold these supposedly “racist” views on slavery are also more likely to own guns.

So let’s get this straight. Blacks who don’t believe that slavery in the U.S. is important in explaining how well a black does in today’s society hates other blacks and is thus more likely to own a gun?

The authors focus on people who are racist being the ones who are more likely to buy guns, but they also speculate: “simply owning a firearm may lead whites to develop more negative attitudes towards blacks. There is some experimental research showing that participants who have recently held a firearm produce enhanced salivary testosterone levels and display increased aggression toward others.”


The study’s lead author, Kerry O’Brien, explained to the New York Daily News that their conclusions are so sensible because: “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.”

There is an obvious problem with this claim. Blacks, not whites, are killing blacks. Indeed, in 2012, over 91 percent of blacks were murdered by other blacks.


Disappointingly, none of the media coverage on this paper even bothered asking other academics to critique these claims.

The notion that gun owners must be racist appears to fit journalists’ worldview so well it probably never dawned on them that this research was fatally flawed.


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