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.”

via Memeorandum

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Guns and Gun Control, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Richard Jacobs says:

    Both my brother and I own guns. But our cases you are only 2 for 3. Both of us have college educations, we both make salaries in the six figures, but on the last you are very wrong. We are both ‘bitter’, and angry and disgusted about what the bush administration and the Republican party have done to this country. Not forgetting the wasted lives of our soldiers in Iraq, we are spending BILLIONS of dollare that could be better spent on domestic needs to occupy another country. Our reputation with the rest of the world is at an all time low. Domestically, Bushco and the repugs have done everything in their power to ensure the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. They care nothing about our troops or the citizens of this country, their only concern is wealth and power.

    Bitter? Dear God, bitter does not even come close to what I feel for the bastards in DC.

  2. Tad says:

    So because Obama said something about a small group of people (small town folks), who are a subset of a large group of people (gun owners.) Clearly a poll of the large group will represent the view of the small sub group. That logic is fairly insulting.

    Not to mention the obvious fact that I can be bitter about something and still be a perfectly happy person. How exactly does it follow that since I am bitter about something in life I am thus consumed by it forsaking all other issues, and I am doomed to unhappiness. That’s like saying the Minutemen being bitter about immigration are by definition unhappy people.

    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.

    Perhaps many people do, but I see no reason to believe that Obama does. In fact I find that conclusion quite a stretch. Besides I don’t know a single person who thinks all gun owners are poor ignorant hicks. I mean seriously the whole entertainment industry glorifies violence how many people grow up in that environment thinking so ill of gun owners. Granted some but not many.

    I guess I should mention that I’m a gun owner, and I guess I should also mention that I don’t consider my self a poor ignorant hick.

  3. Patrick T McGuire says:

    (Growing up in Seattle, I knew nobody who owned a gun.)

    Unlike Mr. Brooks, I was raised in a very small town in South Dakota where everyone had a gun. They were very commonplace and unremarkable. My first rifle was given to me by my grandfather who passed on one of his .22 rifles to me. My father gave me my first 30.06 when I was 14. I gave my own son his first rifle when he was 6. And I have had a concealed carry permit for several years.

    I am not bitter by any means, although I am not happy with some things in my life. The fact that I pay too much in taxes upsets me. The fact that my government doesn’t do its job properly annoys me. And yet I am generally happy with the way my life is going. I am also a middle-class Christian with a college degree from a semi-rural area in Arkansas which I suppose defines me as “hick”.

    My guns neither define me nor are in any way relevant to who I am. They are just another part of my life. For Obama to think that I cling to my guns out of bitterness says more about him than it does about me.

  4. floyd says:

    “”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.”””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    So how does this square with the left’s desire to micro-manage the lives of all Americans?
    Is it Elitism? or just condescension?

  5. William d'Inger says:

    These statistics are virtually useless because they fail to consider the categories of the guns and their owners. Thanks to the MSM, gun ownership is thought of as an evil practice of rural (usually) Southern yahoos. My personal experience leads me to believe otherwise.

    Most gun owners I have known were WWII veterans who brought home souvenirs like Arisakas, lugers and Lee Enfield jungle carbines. They also tended to purchase weapons like they used in the war such as M1 Garands or M1911A1 .45 goverments. These weapons were rarely ever used.

    The next largest group were duck and deer hunters who are probably now in the majority since the WWII generation has pretty much died off. Anyway, these weapons generally only come out of the closet during hunting season.

    I have also known historians with rolling block buffalo rifles, .45/70s and 1877 Winchesters none of which anyone dare fire anymore. And that’s not to mention people with black powder smoothbores they use to reenact the Battle of New Orleans, Civil War engagements, etc.

    Finally, I have also known a few genuine gun nuts, (none of whom have ever been in trouble with the law). They are a very tiny minority of the gun owners in my personal sphere.

    I think this whole issue is simply Obama reinforcing stereotypical liberalthink.

  6. Triumph says:

    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.

    I guess it would be too much to think that someone who is a “Visiting Scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute could confuse dependent variables.

    Obama was discussing residents of “some of these small towns” in Pennsyvania and the Midwest. Brooks is discussing gun owners. Only a complete idiot–or a Visiting “Scholar” at AEI–could confuse the two populations.

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Let us attempt to be honest here. None of you on the left understand a damn thing Obama says. If you did, you could not nor would you back him for President. That is unless talking out of your neck is a trait liberals cherish. The subject is not the poll, but the results of the poll. I am a multi gun owner, and I am very happy. My credit rating is 783, I just bought a new Mustang and I intend to vote for McCain because I do not think the Government should pay for anything that I want or need. My guns are insurance that neither individuals or government get to take from me to give to those who richly do not deserve it.

  8. Jed Clampett says:

    I am a poor, ignorant hick and I can’t afford a gun. Will Mr Obamer put a gun in the hand of every poor ignorant hick?

  9. sam says:

    Thus Sprache Zeldorf:

    I am a multi gun owner, and I am very happy.

    I dunno, dude. I googled you, and you sound pretty pissed in your comments on other blogs. I found this gem, which I present as an indication of your pus-filled, though happy, mind:

    Call me racist, or what ever you want, but Obama is a bum and not only should he not be President, he should be ousted from the senate. He is a liar and a racist. I judged him not by the color of his skin, but the very lack of character he has displayed for a very long time. It is what happens when white trash gets layed by visiting Africans. [my emphasis]

    Zelsdorf Ragshaft on April 16, 2008 at 6:45 PM on
    Hot Air

  10. MPW says:

    There is a class of gun owners almost nobody hears about, the gun collectors. I have seen artwork produced in metal and wood that is light years ahead of some of the crap our tax dollars sponsor. It goes for big money, precluding the poor country hick, but said hick will see the beauty in such a gun as well as the collector with the means to own it. While all guns can shoot, not all are artwork. There are many classes of owners, shooters and weapons, same as there are many types of Americans, maybe the liberals should stop trying to pigeon hole everyone into their neat preconceived notions of what should be and look at what is a lot more carefully before they have to chew on their shoes. mpw

  11. joe says:

    It’s also important to note that weapons laws are quite strict throughout the state and the nation. And those who possess weapons aren’t just in the south or Texas, but even in Los Angeles there are individuals with a variety of weapons which are against the law and which can bring a variety of charges aside from whatever criems they are used to commit. Weapons are a serious issue and must be taken seriously.