Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

What slavery and racism have to do with American gun ownership

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Maya Srikrishnan writes in the Center for Public Integrity Watchdog:

Gun politics in the U.S. are inextricably linked to race.

Two recent studies have found more evidence that for many white Americans who advocate for gun rights, it isn’t simply about owning and using a tool, but even more about identity and power.

One of the research papers found that the larger the percentage of enslaved people a U.S. county had in 1860, the higher the rate of gun ownership its residents have today.

The second found that white Americans who express high levels of anti-Black sentiments associate gun rights with white people and gun control with Black people, and they are less likely to support gun rights if they believe Black people are exercising those rights more than they are.

“I started thinking about what about race and racism might be particularly important when thinking about gun rights,” said Gerald Higginbotham, a University of Virginia researcher who was the lead author of the second study. “Because in mainstream conversation it isn’t necessarily framed in the terms of race, even though it is much talked about at least in Black communities that I’m a part of.”

Nick Buttrick at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lead author of the study that found a significant relationship between enslavement rates and modern-day gun ownership, said he had long wondered why the U.S. has a different relationship with guns than most other places in the world.

“In the U.S., the dominant way of thinking of what a gun does is it protects you,” Buttrick said.

Surveys have shown that two-thirds of gun-owning Americans say it’s a way to stay safe, while people in other countries are more likely to believe the presence of a gun adds risk and danger to their lives.

“Why is it that Americans think guns will keep them safe?” Buttrick said. “What is the history of this?”

Two things stood out to Buttrick and his colleagues. Chattel slavery was different here than in other countries. So was the exit from slavery, called Reconstruction in the U.S.

Reconstruction was a time of instability and extreme violence in the South, when whites saw the destruction of the antebellum norms they knew. The chaos and distrust of the government bred an environment where they turned to guns to maintain order, Buttrick said.

He and his co-author found rates of enslavement prior to the Civil War from Census data. They then used a common proxy to determine current gun ownership levels in counties — a figure that isn’t tracked by the U.S. government — by looking at suicides by firearms.

That’s how they found the link between  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 September 2022 at 12:23 pm

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