John Derbyshire contends that the gun control debate is a contest of moral posturing between two very culturally distinct groups of whites:
This is really about is good old American sectionalism—two big groups of white people who can’t stand the sight of each other. We are eternally re-fighting the Civil War.
(Yes, white people. Blacks are hors de combat here, as they mostly were in the Civil War, neither side of which liked or trusted them. Sherman would not let colored troops march armed in the Grand Parade. Some black pioneer units marched with picks and shovels, but they were regarded as comic relief by the spectators and newspapers. Nobody cares what the generality of blacks think, no more now than in 1865. This war, like that one, is an intra-white affair.)While NAM opinion may not feature prominently in pronouncements from either white faction, Steve Sailer argues that SWPLs favor strict control as a means of disarming NAMs in the urban areas the two groups share. A direct assault on NAM culture being of course unthinkable, SWPLs divert their contempt for gun rights from NAMs and towards white rustic bumpkins. To the extent that NAMs factor into the thoughts of said bumpkins, it's that in the bucolic places they call home, low population density means police manpower and response times are too low to be relied upon. Consequently, each man need be responsible for his own self defense.
In the midst of this fray, it may come as a surprise to many to find that whites are significantly more likely to own firearms than non-whites--including Asians--are. The percentages of Americans who have at least one gun in the home, by mutually exclusive racial/ethnic identity (n = 7,214):
While gun advocates often invoke the weapon as the great equalizer for allowing a petite woman to defend herself from a larger, stronger male assailant, men are more likely to own firearms than women are. The percentages of people who have at least one gun in the home, by sex (n = 8,164):
Getting back to the racial angle, as previously mentioned, whites aren't monolithic. There is an ideological divide on the issue of gun rights among whites that is reflected in varying rates of gun ownership. The percentages of whites who have at least one gun in the home, by political orientation (n = 3,998):
Gun ownership rates are more than twice as high among white conservatives as they are among white liberals. Circling back to the previous table, though, note that even white liberals are more apt to have guns in the home than blacks, Hispanics, or Asians are.
There is a geographic component at play here as well. The GSS has only sporadically inquired about the type of community respondents currently live in, but from the beginning has asked where they lived at the age of sixteen. Understanding that the following measurement is imperfect not only because people move but also because geographic distinctions recalled from decades in the past are inevitably somewhoat murky, the percentages of whites who currently have at least one gun in the home, by the type of community they were living in at the age of 16 (n = 5,526):
There is a good deal of overlap between political orientation and community type among whites, but they obviously don't map identically. If we distill the white camps down to their most essential elements, we get single urban SWPLs on one side and married God-and-country farmboys on the other. The proportion of unmarried urban white liberals with at least one gun in the home is 13.6%; the corresponding figure for married rural white conservatives is 72.1%. It's here that the battle lines are most conspicuously drawn.
Pat Buchanan recently wrote the following:
Today, we Americans are a far more heavily armed people than half a century ago. Forty-seven percent of adult males own a firearm. There are 270 million rifles, shotguns and pistols in private hands.The man knows his stuff, but Pat doesn't provide a point of reference from which to base the assertion made in that first sentence upon. The reflexive gun-buying spree that has occurred in response to calls for stricter gun control from nanny-staters like Obama and Michael Bloomberg notwithstanding, the American public appears to have been more heavily armed in the past than they are today. Making an exception to the 2000 onward rule established earlier, the following graph shows the percentage of Americans with at least one gun in the home from 1973 through 2010, the last year for which GSS data were available at the time of this posting (n = 32,863):
Pat comes to the following conclusion based on the claimed increase in private gun ownership:
Given the loosening of gun laws at the state level in recent years, the gun controllers no longer have the numbers to impose their will on the folks who have a love for, or feel a need for, guns.While most American households don't contain firearms, many do. The trend has been away from gun ownership (given demographic trends, this really isn't surprising) over the last several decades, but I suspect that gun rights still have the upper hand over gun restrictions, at least at present. Presumably the vast majority of Americans who own guns want to keep them, while there are copious quantities of residents among the gun-free majority (like myself) who sympathize with the spirit of the second amendment, are wary of government intervention into the private lives of citizens, and who like thinking that because a number of their neighbors own guns, would-be burglars are taking a gamble assuming that they do not.
GSS variables used: OWNGUN(1-2), RACECEN1(1)(2)(3)(4-10)(15-16), POLVIEWS(1-2)(4)(6-7), MARITAL(1)(2-5), RES16(1-2)(3-4)(5-6), YEAR(2000-2010)