Study: Symbolic Racism Relates to Opposition of Gun Control Policies

Biased attitudes on race may adversely influence U.S. gun control policy debates and decisions.

Posted: 11/06/2013 10:30 AM EST

A new study says symbolic racism in American whites is related to having a gun in the home and opposition toward gun control policies. The finding helps explain paradoxical attitudes that may adversely influence policy and decisions on gun control on a government level.

Symbolic racism is defined in the report as being an explicit but subtle form and measure of racism, which replaced the overt and blatant racism shown toward Blacks during the Jim Crow Era, which in turn led to the civil rights movement. 

"Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions" found that for each one point increase in symbolic racism in those surveyed, there was a 50 percent greater chance of having a gun in the home, and a 28 percent increase in the odds of supporting permits to carry concealed handguns.

Also the relationship between symbolic racism and opposition to banning handguns in the home became insignificant when the variable of having a gun in the home was analyzed with other data. The authors write that this likely "represents self-interest in retaining property (guns)."

The research paper reports:

Opposition to gun control in US whites is somewhat paradoxical given the statistics on gun-related deaths, and such opposition may be undermining the public health of all US citizens. This study examined for the first time whether racism is related to gun ownership and the opposition to gun control in US whites. The results support the hypothesis by showing that greater symbolic racism is related to increased odds of having a gun in the home and greater opposition to gun control, after accounting for all other explanatory variables.

It is particularly noteworthy that the relationship between symbolic racism and the gun-related outcomes was maintained in the presence of conservative ideologies, political affiliation, opposition to government control, and being from a southern state, which are otherwise strong predictors of gun ownership and opposition to gun reform. Contrary to research showing associations between implicit racism and policy decision making, we did not find implicit racism to be significantly related to gun related outcomes after accounting for other variables. Similarly, the small correlations between the stereotype that most Blacks being violent and gun outcomes were not significant after accounting for all other variables.

Read full report here.

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(Photo: Jimmy Anderson / Getty Images)

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