Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gun owners are NOT losers

They are in fact happier

In words that he has come to regret, Barack Obama opined as to why he was having a hard time winning over many blue-collar voters: "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." ... The comment may or may not be an indication of Mr. Obama's real views about those ordinary Americans who've not enjoyed the full fruits of economic growth over the past decades. Yet his casual portrayal no doubt had heads nodding vigorously in assent among his supporters, and probably among many others.

That anybody would find this portrayal realistic illustrates how little some Americans know about their neighbors. And nothing reveals the truth better than the data on guns. According to the 2006 General Social Survey, which has tracked gun ownership since 1973, 34% of American homes have guns in them. This statistic is sure to surprise many people in cities like San Francisco - as it did me when I first encountered it. (Growing up in Seattle, I knew nobody who owned a gun.)

Who are all these gun owners? Are they the uneducated poor, left behind? It turns out they have the same level of formal education as nongun owners, on average. Furthermore, they earn 32% more per year than nonowners. Americans with guns are neither a small nor downtrodden group. Nor are they "bitter." In 2006, 36% of gun owners said they were "very happy," while 9% were "not too happy." Meanwhile, only 30% of people without guns were very happy, and 16% were not too happy.

In 1996, gun owners spent about 15% less of their time than nonowners feeling "outraged at something somebody had done." It's easy enough in certain precincts to caricature armed Americans as an angry and miserable fringe group. But it just isn't true. The data say that the people in the approximately 40 million American households with guns are generally happier than those people in households that don't have guns.

The gun-owning happiness gap exists on both sides of the political aisle. Gun-owning Republicans are more likely than nonowning Republicans to be very happy (46% to 37%). Democrats with guns are slightly likelier than Democrats without guns to be very happy as well (32% to 29%). Similarly, holding income constant, one still finds that gun owners are happiest.

Why are gun owners so happy? One plausible reason is a sense of self-reliance, in terms of self-defense or even in terms of the ability to hunt their own dinner. Many studies over the years have shown that a belief in one's control over the environment dramatically adds to happiness. Example: a famous study of elderly nursing home patients in the 1970s. It showed dramatic improvements in life satisfaction from elements of control as seemingly insignificant as being able to care for one's plants.

A bit of evidence that self-reliance is at work among gun owners comes from the General Social Survey. It asked whether one agrees with the statement, "Those in need have to take care of themselves." In 2004, gun owners were 10 percentage points more likely than nonowners to agree (60% to 50%). That response is not evidence that gun owners only care about themselves, however. In 2002, they were more likely to give money to charity than people without guns (83% to 75%). This charity gap doesn't reflect their somewhat higher incomes. Gun owners were also more likely to give in other ways, such as donating blood. Are gun owners unsentimental? In 2004, they were more likely than those without guns to strongly agree that they would "endure all things" for the one they loved (45% to 37%).

None of this is to dictate what gun policy should be in our nation and its communities, let alone whether gun owners deserve to be happier than those of us without firearms. Guns are an important area of debate about freedom and security, not to mention constitutionality. What we do know, however, is that contrary to the implication of Mr. Obama's comments, for many Americans, happiness often does indeed involve a warm gun.


TX: Man shoots burglar : "An Oak Cliff homeowner told police that he was awakened around 1:30 Friday morning by the sound of breaking glass. The man grabbed a handgun and discovered two men inside his home in the 6100 block of Teague Drive, according to police. One of the men was still holding a board that they had used to break the window. Police said the homeowner started shooting and hit one of the suspects in the upper chest and jaw. That suspect is in critical condition at Baylor Hospital. The other burglar ran from the home and has not been found. The case will be referred to a Grand Jury, but investigators said the homeowner appeared to be justified in protecting his life and property."

Minn. man chases away burglars : "Steve Remer chased burglars from his Buffalo, Minn home with a gun after finding his bedroom door tied shut and unfamiliar noises around the house .. Remer was startled out of his sleep by some strange creaking noises he thought were caused by the wind. When he tried to open his door, he found it had been tied shut. .. Then, Remer heard an unfamiliar voice in the hallway. He grabbed his .357 handgun from the closet and chased the intruder down the stairs and out the front door, firing several shots at their stolen SUV on the way out.Remer says he didn't want to shoot the suspect in the back. He said since they gave him a break and didn't do anything to him while he was sleeping, he wanted to make sure they saw his face if he pulled the trigger.When Remer went back into the house, he found a second suspect locked in a bedroom."I said come on out - put your hands on your head, I'll show you a little about Hanoi," Remer said, with a laugh.It was meant as a joke to them, but Remer says the suspect didn't take it lightly, instead jumping out a window and running off."

IA: Pink slip delivered to `Pizza Man': "A Des Moines pizza delivery driver who was suspended after he shot an alleged armed robber said today that he has been fired.James William Spiers III, 38, said Pizza Hut officials asked for his resignation in exchange for at least two months' pay and counseling."I was terminated, but they're not going to kick me to the curb," he said. "When they terminated me, I had asked I they could provide me with counseling. That's all I asked for." Spiers fired multiple shots at a man who allegedly put a gun to his head on March 28 and demanded money at the Sutton Hill Apartments, 2100 S.E. King Ave.The suspect, Kenneth Jimmerson, 19, was arrested when he later called for medical help. Jimmerson, who police say suffered at least three gunshot wounds, survived his injuries and faces a first-degree robbery charge. Melanie Stout, 18, who allegedly called in the pizza order, is charged with conspiracy. Spiers, who has a valid handgun permit, said it was the first time in 10 years on the job that he had been a robbery victim. Public reaction was immediate and overwhelmingly in favor of Spiers.But Vonnie Walbert, vice president of human resources at Pizza Hut's corporate offices in Dallas, said earlier this month that employees are not allowed to carry guns "because we believe that that is the safest for everybody.'"

No comments: