FSU research: Fear not a factor in gun ownership

September 25, 2019

Are gun owners more or less afraid than people who do not own guns? A new study from researchers at Florida State University and the University of Arizona hopes to add some empirical data to the conversation after finding that gun owners tend to report less fear than non-gun owners.

The study, led by sociology doctoral student Benjamin Dowd-Arrow, used the Chapman University Survey of American Fears to examine both the types and the amount of fear that gun owners had in comparison to non-gun owners.

"There's a lot of popular rhetoric in the media and among politicians as to why people own guns," Dowd-Arrow said. "The biggest claim is that they're cowards. So, we wanted to see if owning guns was truly a symptom of fear."

Dowd-Arrow and his team examined fear pertaining to specific phobias and victimization. The results, published in SSM - Population Health, showed that the popular rhetoric surrounding gun ownership was not true.

The researchers first examined gun ownership as a result of fears. For the most part, the study showed that fears were unrelated to the probability of owning a gun.

There were some exceptions. Adults who reported a fear of animals and adults who reported a fear of being mugged were less likely to own a gun. Adults who reported a fear of being victimized by a random/mass shooting were more likely to own a gun.

The researchers then examined the fears of people who owned guns. They found that people who own guns tend to report fewer phobias and victimization fears than people who do not own guns. This general pattern was observed across multiple types of fear, including fear of animals, heights and being mugged.

"There's little evidence to suggest that gun ownership is an effect of fear," Dowd-Arrow said. "However, gun ownership may be associated with less fear because firearms help their owners to feel safe, secure and protected in a world they perceive to be uncertain and potentially dangerous."

Dowd-Arrow said the team's research offers potential policy implications for the gun debate and gun-safety legislation moving forward.

"By eliminating stereotypes and false information around gun ownership, we can possibly create better or more useful policy," Dowd-Arrow said.

Researchers stressed that even though gun owners were found to be less afraid, they are not endorsing gun ownership as safe.

"Research has already indicated that owning a firearm is linked to increased odds of suicide, accidental injury and death and violence against women," Dowd-Arrow said. "More research is needed to really understand how fear is linked to these health outcomes."

Researchers suggested future studies could examine the fear factor in carrying a concealed weapon versus keeping a gun stowed in a car or house. Additional topics to investigate include regional differences in gun ownership and the effects of gun ownership on mental health and sleep disturbance.

"Firearm culture in America is a fascinating topic that is grossly understudied," Dowd-Arrow said. "More research can help us understand what motivates gun ownership. If it isn't fear, then what is it? Or is it a specific fear, such as being a victim in a random shooting?"
-end-
Co-authors are Terrence Hill, associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona, and Amy Burdette, professor of sociology at Florida State University.

Florida State University

Related Fear Articles from Brightsurf:

How does the brain process fear?
CSHL Professor Bo Li's team explores the brain circuits that underlie fear.

The overlap between fear and anxiety brain circuits
Fear and anxiety reflect overlapping brain circuits, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

Fear of missing out impacts people of all ages
The social anxiety that other people are having fun without you, also known as FoMO, is more associated with loneliness, low self-esteem and low self-compassion than with age, according to a recent study led by Washington State University psychology professor Chris Barry.

How fear transforms into anxiety
University of New Mexico researchers identify for the first time the brain-wide neural correlates of the transition from fear to anxiety.

How associative fear memory is formed in the brain
Using a mouse model, a pair of UC Riverside researchers demonstrated the formation of fear memory involves the strengthening of neural pathways between two brain areas: the hippocampus, which responds to a particular context and encodes it, and the amygdala, which triggers defensive behavior, including fear responses.

What makes fear decrease
In uncanny situations, the mere presence of an unknown person can have a calming effect.

With these neurons, extinguishing fear is its own reward
The same neurons responsible for encoding reward also form new memories to suppress fearful ones, according to new research by scientists at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.

Having to defend one's sexuality increases fear of childbirth
In order to help people with fear of childbirth, there must be trust between the patient and the healthcare staff.

Fear of hospitalization keeps men from talking about suicide
Fear of psychiatric hospitalization is one of the primary reasons that older men -- an age and gender group at high risk for suicide -- don't talk about suicide with their physicians.

Brain activity predicts fear of pain
Researchers applied a machine learning technique that could potentially translate patterns of activity in fear-processing brain regions into scores on questionnaires used to assess a patient's fear of pain.

Read More: Fear News and Fear Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.