Saturday, April 19, 2008

Are Gun Owners Really Trigger Happy?

An article in the WSJ states that gun owners are happier and less outraged in general than non gunowners (Hat tip: Instapundit):

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.

I think the point about gun owners being less outraged than non gun owners is an important one. If you listen to many people who are adamant gun control supporters, they often (mistakenly) believe that people simply shoot others because they are impulsive and angry, and a gun is nearby. My guess is that this is projection. This is what they feel they would do because they do not know how to modulate their own anger. They do not trust their own instincts (maybe with good reason!) and project their anger and inability to control themselves onto others. Most legal gun owners seem to have better anger management and control than the rest of the population. In fact, studies with kids who own legal firearms show them to have fewer behavioral problems, not more. The psychology of gun owners vs. non gun owners is important to understand in the ongoing debate about guns.


Blogger Jason said...

If nothing else, shooting is an excuse to get outdoors and practicing some deep breathing. It requires the development of calm and focus, and rewards that exercise with feelings of competence and self-sufficiency. It's essential to a healthy and positive outlook on life.

At least, that's what I told myself when I ditched work yesterday to go to the range.

7:47 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger mmaier2112 said...

I wish I had more money. I'd have a lot more guns and be at the range a whole lot more.

In my experience, anti-gun folks tend to be foolish utopians. They think "there oughta be law" for every unpleasant possibility in life, regardless of how much it infringes on others.

They also think dialing 911 is the solution to everything, including rapes, deadly assaults and break-ins already in progress.

8:00 PM, April 19, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a personal level, I am a pacifist and refuse to carry a firearm or engage in hunting. But I understand the satisfaction of being a skilled, responsible marksman, and believe the 2nd amendment preserves the right to engage in that hobby.

8:26 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

OK, this is based on my own observations, and on anecdotal evidence. Looks like anti-gun, Obama and Hillary-lovin', Bush-hatin" types seem to be in a constant state of anger and outrage. Nothing in our societyis good enough for them,and they tend to be angry people. Seems they have personal psychological issues,and semm to turn their anger towards the rest of society.
By contrast, a lotof fellwo gun-owners and gun-users seem to have a more balanced view of the world,and are neither angry all the time, or as neurotic as the gun-haters.
Mind you thisis based on anecdotal evidence, wonder if these observatoins hold throuhgt society?

8:29 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

Scottish- I have a question for you, if you dont mind. I respect your decision to not carry a weapon. However, I have a question. Say, you are walking on a dark shopping mall parking lot to your car. And some bad guy attacks you and your loved one,and he has a knife and makes threats. What would you do under such a circumstance? Are you willingto be the victim of said criminal?
Again, this is not meant to knock your decision. I am just trying to understand how you came to make the decision you made.
Thans in advance

8:33 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger Adrian said...

In fact, to get a gun, in the first place, you have to go through a rigorous background check. People that pass that, as a group, are going to naturally also exhibit traits that are highly correlated with that (such as even temper). So, it should be no surprise that it turns out that legal gun owners and especially CCL holders and the like turn out to be squeaky clean, in general. We made it come out that way with allthe rigorous back ground checks!

I think the speculation about it being otherwise is more of just catty politics -- an effort to slander gun owners.

9:08 PM, April 19, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Danny, that's a really good question. The bald fact is that I just don't know. The willingness to risk personal harm for the sake of an idea certainly does not relieve my responsibility to protect my loved ones. I know that my wife feels the same way I do, and agrees with my stance. So essentially we would accept the same fate together. My children, or anyone else in my company, are of course a different matter. Ideally, in the spur of the moment, I would be able to make the fine decision between protecting others for their sake and protecting myself out of pure fear. Since I don’t carry a sidearm, my response would be limited to trying to shield them or using some non-deadly method to disarm or disable the attacker. Barring that, it’s all up to God.

9:28 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...


Outside of Chicago and a very few other benighted places, a "rigorous background check" is not required to buy a gun. Rather, you merely must have avoided being convicted of a felony or of misdomeanor domestic violence, and have avoided any involuntary civil mental-health commitments. Perhaps you're thinking of the more stringent check required (in some places) for a concealed-carry license or something.

9:31 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger Adrian said...

Rather, you merely must have avoided being convicted of a felony or of misdomeanor domestic violence, and have avoided any involuntary civil mental-health commitments.

Oh is that all? Well.... ;o)

Well, okay, maybe it's not rigorous -- certainly not as rigorous as geting the CCL. And, definitely not as rigorous as what they check if you want to join the Secret Service. But, still, it creates a massive selection bias.

10:12 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

kirk and adrian --

First define gun. If you include rifles and shotguns like the dictionary does, then in a number of states you simply purchase it like I did my shotgun. This does not include CCL, of course.

11:07 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...


I define "gun" as "any small arm". And it's a federal regulation that they have to perform the Instant Background Check, to that applies to every sale from a licensed dealer. (It also applies to private sales in some freedom-hostile places, too, but that's not important now.)

My big quibble with Adrian is in calling this "rigorous". I'd rather call it, and anything else that can be passed by a very large majority of the population, as "trivial". FWIW.

11:32 PM, April 19, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

Michael wrote: "In my experience, anti-gun folks tend to be foolish utopians. They think "there oughta be law" for every unpleasant possibility in life"

I really resonate with the "there oughta be a law" observation. It usually strikes me as a childish appeal to authority in an adult body. Like tattling or changing the rules in midgame for adults.

And those laws are typically foolishly utopian, which goes back to your other point! (And think of how many of them conflict with our Constitution too.) Gun removal laws are classic in this regard. Criminals by definition break laws and laws per se will not affect them. Longer and perhaps more frequenct incarceration would, but the law happy folks are not big on incarceration! They are not for law and order, but laws and order.

I guess we got back to foolish again.

12:18 AM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

adrian --

"Massive"? Selecting out criminals, violent people and folks with mental health problems is massive? I don't think so.

kirk --

Yes, it's fed that a bgc is required for handguns. And I obviously agree it ain't massive.

7:47 AM, April 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been pondering a similar situation painted by the conversation above between scottish and danny for a very long time.

I do not and never have, owned a weapon. I was mugged in broad daylight once in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Airport, in Memphis.
Although they got nothing, I was pummeled around quite a bit. There was five of them. I could have just as easily been killed, I suppose. I am thankful I was on business, and none of my kids were with me.

If I would have had a gun, I am sure things would have been different. Maybe one or more of them would have been winged, possibly killed. At the very least, my mugging may well have been prevented. Or it could have become an OK Corral scenario. I do not know if one or more of them was armed. The whole thing couldn't have lasted more than a minute or two, and they were back in their car and gone.

I know this much. At the time I was all in a ball on the ground in the parking lot, being kicked and punched by 5 teens and young men, I was certainly wishing I did have a hand gun. Trouble is, I would have killed all of them were I able, at this stage. I was that scared, and that angry.

Because of that, owning and carrying a concealed weapon, or not, remains a conundrum for me.

8:18 AM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger Tank said...

One of the most surprising things about becoming more involved in shooting and firearm ownership is the true diversity of people you run into who are also involved.

The first thing you notice it that all of the stereotypes are BS.

9:00 AM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger Adrian said...

Oh, I do think it creates a selection bias. It's the old 80-20 rule: 80% of the crimes are commited by 20% of the criminals. They are commited by a small group of particularly serious and frequent offenders. So, by just excluding them from our data with the criteria for the check or even just the criteria of "you may not have a felony on your record", we are excluding 80% of crime. That is a massive selection bias -- even for a trivial background check. In fact, I would think this should be right up Helen's alley. Maybe she can shed some light on what percentage of cimes committed in a given year are commited by people that would fail to meet the trivial background check.

9:32 AM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger gunnypink said...

I grew up with guns in the house. There was a rule, that we never played with the real ones, and never loaded one unless we were in a place where no one was around, and it was safe to discharge the weapons.

Sixteen years in the Marine Corps, honed my sense of respecting what a person can do with a gun.

I am in possession of CCL, and in fact do carry a concealed pistol that is loaded.

Nah, I have never walked down the street, nor driven along, and thought to myself, "sure would like to be able to shoot someone!"

Primarily, I believe that someone who owns guns, and has had the opportunity to learn gun safety, is less inclined to be "trigger happy".

10:44 AM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger Adrian said...

I definitely think that what has been said about gun ownership in general is absolutely true about concealed carry. I think a lot of the critics don't really know what it is like to carry. You can't casually stop by the liquor store or pick your kids up from school. If you get into a fight with some guy on the street and it escalates into a serious confrontation you have to wonder if a jury is going to think you instigated it or did not live up to your duty to flee (in states where you have one). And, even if you are comfortable with it not being criminal, how comfortable are you with civil court where the rules of evidence are completely different (but where your life can get ruined just the same by a severe enough judgment against you)?

It's a big deal having a gun on you. You are constantly aware of it and the potential legal consequences of carrying it. You don't just not shoot off your gun, you don't shoot off your mouth too much, either. You don't flip people off on the road. You certainly don't go around brandishing it or telling people you have it. In fact, you are usually worried a little about what kind of print it is making at any given moment through your clothes. It's almost like a handicap that keeps you acting just so even when everyone else can be kind of an ass about things and otherwise act a lot more freely.

12:00 PM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...


Spot on regarding the difference in outlook once you start carrying a firearm. I can say that, even as a person who hadn't been in a genuine physical altercation since grade school--stay away from bars, that's my secret--it still made a huge difference in my mindset.

It's probably worth pointing out that some of the issues you point out actually vary by state. For example, here in WA it's perfectly acceptable to carry your concealed pistol while dropping off or picking up a child at school (though you can't enter the school building armed, it's also legal to leave it locked in your car as long as you are "conducting legitimate business" at the school.) Full details are available here from the RCW. It's probably also legal to carry into the state liquor stores.

4:05 PM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I don't own a handgun but do have a shotgun and a couple of rifles. Living in the country, I like to hunt a little and feel the need to be able to protect myself in an emergency either from a person or a wild animal.

I feel the guns I have will do that job quite well. The only time I feel the need for a handgun is when I walk from my office building to my car's parking lot in Cincinnati. Several people I work with have been threatened or confronted during that one block walk. Several people I work with, who live in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, also own hand guns. The Glock seems to be the favorite.

6:15 PM, April 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure I trust this survey any more than I trust any other survey. Doesn't matter anyway - we're talking about the Constitution, not an application.

9:34 PM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

I have been mugged exactly twice. The first time I was armed, and the perpetrator ran off - at a high rate of speed - and no one was hurt. The second time I was mugged, I was not armed. The pepetrator suffered a fractured skull and spent a week in ICU. He did however, unlike the first example, spend time in prison, as he was still unconcious when the police arrived.

Which was the better outcome? I'll let you decide.

1:00 AM, April 21, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

I guess now we need to ask why bitter people are avoiding guns. I think Obama was just expressing his true feelings about the 2nd Amendment.

4:04 PM, April 21, 2008  
Blogger closed said...


Merely drawing the firearm would have probably de-escalated the situation.

By being aware of your surroundings, and drawing when you felt in danger, they would have never have gotten to the beatdown stage.

At that point you can make a more objective decision about shooting ... like shooting the ones that are endangering you by advancing instead of running like rabbits.

6:36 PM, April 21, 2008  
Blogger Fred Drinkwater said...

Robert: What do you mean you "were not armed"? How'd the skull fracture happen, then?

7:26 PM, April 21, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Lagasse said...

Robert Heinlein, "Beyond This Horizon" -

"An armed society is a polite society."

8:30 PM, April 21, 2008  
Blogger Cappy said...

I'm all for gun ownership and protecting the Second Amendment. Have started CCW classes and it's a real eye opener. Brings up even more questions about legal issues attendant to responsible ownership. Also, quite a bit of practice needed, IMHO.

The Police Officer that spoke to the class also pointed out that in some locations, namely Cleveland, sometimes the neighbors are pro-criminal and hate police. In one instance they ran off a guy that was defending himself from a robbery on his own porch.

9:36 PM, April 22, 2008  
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