Posted on April 7, 2016

White Resentment Is Fueling Opposition to Gun Control, Researchers Say

Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, April 4, 2016

Racial prejudice could play a significant role in white Americans’ opposition to gun control, according to new research from political scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In their paper, published in the journal Political Behavior in November, Alexandra Filindra and Noah J. Kaplan found that whites were significantly less likely to support gun control measures when they had recently looked at pictures of black people, than when they had looked at pictures of white people. The study, which surveyed 1,000 white respondents, also found that the higher they scored on a common measure of racial prejudice, the stronger negative effect the photos of black people had on the respondents’ support for gun control.

Taken together, those two findings “demonstrate that racial prejudice influences white opinion regarding gun regulation in the contemporary United States,” Filindra and Kaplan conclude. {snip}


Kerry O’Brien is a researcher a Monash University in Australia who has also investigated the link toward racial attitudes and gun ownership. He notes that the correlation between racial resentment and gun attitudes has been well-established in existing sociological literature going back at least 30 years.

“No one has refuted the research findings in this area with any opposing scientific evidence or contradictory reanalysis,” he said in an email. “Filindra’s study adds some causal evidence to previous correlational evidence.”


Indeed, Filindra says that her study illustrates the limits of trying to change gun policy by appealing to hard evidence. Gun control advocates “have been approaching the subject from the perspective of public health, which has a message all about costs and benefits–an emphasis specifically on how many deaths, how many injues, all of that stuff.”

But these messages are likely falling on deaf ears if many white gun owners’ identities are strongly intertwined with gun ownership. “This is really about identity processes, and about how people perceive their changing position in a social hierarchy,” she said. “We need to rethink how we can address gun control, how we can decouple the racial and public health dimensions of this.”