, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 398–407 | Cite as

Combat Veterans on Civilian Gun Rights

  • Matthew Bowen
  • Angelica Chang
Social Science and Public Policy


A dramatic rise in mass shootings in the twenty-first century has compelled divisive political and legal agendas predicated on the Second Amendment and mental health. Challenges to absolute autonomy of firearm possession have broad policy implications, and given the enormous cultural entrenchment regarding private gun ownership in the United States, arouse intense objections to government invasion on a fundamental right. While the related legislative process, criminal justice and mental health research has accumulated, there is a lack of any data on the perspective of the sub-group perhaps most qualified to opine on the issue. This paper presents the perspective of veterans of combat from World War Two, Vietnam and the Middle East Wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) on the scope of civilian gun privilege. Older veterans of both earlier wars were unanimously against unlimited firearm ownership while younger veterans were equally divided. Given that military veterans and particularly older ones are reliably very conservative politically, these findings might be unexpected. But for three exceptions all veterans endorsed strict policies on criminal and mental background checks. The discussion examines the core factor of combat experience as the basis for the findings and illuminates considerations for policy decisions.


Combat veterans Gun rights 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KnoxvilleUSA

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