Since the 2008 election of President Obama, the number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. has tripled, while imports have doubled. This doesn’t mean more households have guns than ever before—that percentage has stayed fairly steady for decades. Rather, more guns are being stockpiled by a small number of individuals. Three percent of the population now owns half of the country’s firearms, says a recent, definitive study from the Injury Control Research Center at Harvard University.
…According to a growing number of scientific studies, the kind of man who stockpiles weapons or applies for a concealed-carry license meets a very specific profile.
These are men who are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market, and beset by racial fears. They tend to be less educated. For the most part, they don’t appear to be religious—and, suggests one study, faith seems to reduce their attachment to guns. …Taken together, these studies describe a population that is struggling to find a new story—one in which they are once again the heroes.
…For these economically insecure, irreligious white men, “the gun is a ubiquitous symbol of power and independence, two things white males are worried about,” says Froese. “Guns, therefore, provide a way to regain their masculinity, which they perceive has been eroded by increasing economic impotency.”
…“Put simply, owners who are more attached to their guns are most likely to believe that guns are a solution to our social ills,” says Froese. “For them, more ‘good’ people with guns would drastically reduce violence and increase civility. Again, it reflects a hero narrative, which many white man long to feel a part of.”
Stroud’s work echoes this conclusion. “They tell themselves all kinds of stories about criminals and criminal victimization,” she says. “But the story isn’t just about criminals. It’s about the good guy—and that’s how they see themselves: ‘I work hard, I take care of my family, and there are people who aren’t like that.’ When we tell stories about the Other, we’re really telling stories about ourselves.”