Racial Resentment and Whites’ Gun Policy Preferences in Contemporary America
Our study investigates how and why racial prejudice can fuel white opposition to gun restrictions. Drawing on research across disciplines, we suggest that the language of individual freedom used by the gun rights movement utilizes the same racially meaningful tropes as the rhetoric of the white resistance to black civil rights that developed after WWII and into the 1970s. This indicates that the gun rights narrative is color-coded and evocative of racial resentment. To determine whether racial prejudice depresses white support for gun control, we designed a priming experiment which exposed respondents to pictures of blacks and whites drawn from the IAT. Results show that exposure to the prime suppressed support for gun control compared to the control, conditional upon a respondent’s level of racial resentment. Analyses of ANES data (2004–2013) reaffirm these findings. Racial resentment is a statistically significant and substantively important predictor of white opposition to gun control.
KeywordsRacial resentment Symbolic racism Prejudice Gun control Public policy Public opinion
- Achen, C. H. (2000). Why lagged dependent variables can suppress the explanatory power of other independent variables. In Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of Political Methodolgy, Los Angeles, CA. (http://www.polmeth.wustl.edu/media/Paper/achen00.pdf).
- Beck, N. (2011). Is OLS with a binary dependent variable really Ok?: Estimating (mostly) TSCS models with binary dependent variables and fixed effects. http://politics.as.nyu.edu/docs/IO/2576/pgm2011.pdf.
- Braman, D., & Kahan, D. M. (2006). Overcoming the fear of guns, the fear of gun control, and the fear of cultural politics: Constructing a better gun debate. Emory Law Journal, 55, 569–608.Google Scholar
- Burbick, J. (2006). Gun show nation: Gun culture and American democracy. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
- Cooper, J. (2001). Jeff Cooper’s commentaries. 9(4). http://myweb.cebridge.net/mkeithr/Jeff/jeff9_4.html.
- Cottrol, R. J., & Diamond, R. (1995). Never intended to be applied to the white population: Firearms regulation and racial disparity-the redeemed south’s legacy to a national jurisprudence. Chicago-Kent Law Review, 70, 1307.Google Scholar
- Heston, C. (2000). The courage to be free. Kansas City: Saudade Press.Google Scholar
- Hosang, D. M. (2010). Racial propositions: Ballot initiatives and the making of postwar California. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Hsiao, C. (1986). Analysis of panel data. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Kinder, D. R., & Sanders, L. M. (1996). Divided by Color. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Kleck, G. (1997). Targeting guns: Firearms and their control. New York: Aldine De Gruyter Inc.Google Scholar
- Lipset, S. M., & Raab, E. (1970). The politics of unreason: Right-wing extremism in America, 1790–1970. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
- Melzer, S. (2009). Gun crusaders: The NRA’s culture war. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Mendelberg, T. (2001). The race card: Campaign strategy, implicit messages, and the norm of equality. Princeton: Princeton Unniversity Press.Google Scholar
- Nisbett, J., & Cohen, D. (1996). Culture of honor: The psychology of violence in the south. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- O’Brien, K., Forrest, W., Lynott D., & Daly M. (2013). Racism, gun ownership and gun control: BIased attitudes in US whites may influence policy decisions. PLOSOne.org (Oct 31, 2013). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077552. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0077552).
- Pew Research Center. (2013). Gun control: Key data points from pew research. (March 13, 2013) Retrieved April 17, 2013 http://www.pewresearch.org/2013/03/13/gun-control-key-data-points-from-pew-research/).
- Schuman, H., Steeh, C., Bobo, L., & Krysan, M. (1997). Racial attitudes in America: Trends and interpretations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Sears, D. O., Hetts, J. J., Sidanius, J., & Bobo, L. (2000). “Race in American Politics: Framing the Debates.” Pp. In D. O. Sears, J. Sidanius, & L. Bobo (Eds.), Racialized politics: The debate about racism in America (pp. 1–43). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Self, R. O. (2003). American Babylon: Race and the struggle for postwar oakland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Siegel, R. B. (2008). Dead or Alive: Originalism as popular constitutionalism in heller. Yale Law School Paper: Faculty Scholarship Series. 1133.Google Scholar
- Sniderman, P. M., & Piazza, T. (1995). The scar of race. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Tahmassebi, S. B. (1991). Gunc control and racism. George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal 2:67. (http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/tahmassebi61.html).
- Thernstrom, S., & Thernstrom, A. (1999). America in black and white: One nation indivisible. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
- Winkler, A. (2011a). Gunfight: The battle over the right to bear arms in America. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
- Winkler, A. (2011b). The secret history of guns. Atlantic Monthly (10727825), 308:80–87.Google Scholar
- Young, R. L. (1985). Perceptions of crime, racial attitudes, and firearms ownership. Social Forces (University of North Carolina Press), 64, 473–486.Google Scholar