Gun Owners Not Uneducated, Poor, or Bitter
Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks steps past the politics of “Bittergate” and looks at the actual facts.
Barack Obama said of people in small town American that, “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.” Brooks observes, correctly I think, that we really don’t know what Obama meant by that but that many people undoubtedly hold the view that gun owners are poor, ignorant hicks.
That view doesn’t stand up to the reality:
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.
A lot of the things we “know,” we’re constantly reminded, just ain’t true.
Tigerhawk, noting another survey showing that conservatives are happier than liberals, offers a plausible explanation for the overlap: “First, both groups are in some sense pessimistic, meaning that they do not expect life to be smooth, unruffled, peaceful, or safe. . . . Second, both groups are notoriously self-reliant, at least in their own self-image, insofar as they believe that they are the only people who will solve their troubles, whether or not somebody else is to blame in the first place.”