Is It a Dangerous World Out There? The Motivational Bases of American Gun Ownership

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Is It a Dangerous World Out There? The Motivational Bases of American Gun Ownership

Category: Behavior, Concealed Carry, Defensive Gun Use, Firearm Policies|Journal: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (full text)|Author: A Kruglanski, N Leander, W Stroebe|Year: 2017

Americans are the world’s best armed citizens and public polling suggests protection/self-defense is their main reason for gun ownership. However, there is virtually no psychological research on gun ownership. The present article develops the first psychological process model of defensive gun ownership—specifically, a two-component model that considers both the antecedents and consequences of owning a gun for protection/self-defense. We demonstrate that different levels of threat construal—the specific perceived threat of assault and a diffuse threat of a dangerous world—independently predict handgun ownership; we also show how utility judgments can explain the motivated reasoning that drives beliefs about gun rights. We tested our model in two independent samples of gun owners (total N = 899), from just before and after the Orlando mass shooting. This study illustrates how social-cognitive theories can help explain what motivates Americans to own handguns and advocate for broad rights to carry and use them.

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