What is it about?

This research investigates the role of race and racism in who White Americans perceive gun rights to be for and how support for gun rights can be influenced by simply learning about Black Americans increasingly using their legal rights to guns. Across three studies with over 850 participants total, we found that White Americans who expressed high levels of anti-Black sentiment more strongly associated gun rights with White people (and gun control with Black Americans). And importantly, this group of White Americans were also less supportive of the right to concealable carry if Black people were described as legally obtaining concealed carry permits at a faster rate than White people.

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Against a backdrop of massive protests arguing for the protection of gun rights from government overreach by U.S. gun rights organizations and White American gun rights activists, this research was in part motivated by their parallel (and longstanding) silence when the rights of Black legal gun owners are ignored or violated by government actors (e.g., Jacqueline Dixon, Philando Castile, Amir Locke). While deserving attention long before now, understanding how Black legal gun ownership shapes gun attitudes from a social psychological perspective is particularly pertinent as Black Americans are presently the fastest-growing group of legal gun owners in the U.S. Putting present-day observations in context with the historical role of race, racism, and the asymmetrical application of gun control laws in the U.S. provided a more holistic perspective as we sought to test how race and racism play a nuanced, yet integral role in present-day White Americans’ gun attitudes and policy support.

Gerald Higginbotham
University of Virginia

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This page is a summary of: When an irresistible prejudice meets immovable politics: Black legal gun ownership undermines racially resentful White Americans’ gun rights advocacy., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, August 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xge0001275.
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