Gun Ownership as a coping mechanism
There are more guns than people in the United States. It's estimated that there are 120.5 firearms per 100 residents.
And Americans are still buying more guns.
As ownership of high-powered weapons has increased, so has the number of deadly massacres. Some variation of the AR-15 has been used in some of the deadliest mass shootings in recent years, including the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde last year, which left 19 students and two teachers dead.
This makes firearms a flashpoint in American life, and yet the motivations underlying their ownership have been generally understudied by psychologists.
Research from across the social sciences explores what psychological utility people receive from gun ownership.
Why do some people have a disproportionate response when gun safety laws are proposed? Thier triggered response could indicate that gun ownership is deeply connected to their personal identity and that gun ownership is actually a psychological coping mechanism.
There is an argument that those who own their weapon for protection are using their gun symbolically as an aid to manage psychological threats—to their safety, control, and sense of belongingness—that come from their belief that the world is a dangerous place, and that society will not keep them safe.
What are the ramifications of this coping strategy?
How is understanding this coping mechanism important to dealing with gun violence in America?
Nicholas Buttrick is assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is co-author of a new paper called “Historical prevalence of slavery predicts contemporary American gun ownership.”
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*This interview will be recorded on Tuesday April 11.