Harvard Study: Americans Buy Guns Because They Are Scared

concealed permit (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

A new Harvard-Northeastern study showing Americans increasingly buy guns for self-defense rather than sport has persuaded one of the study’s authors to conclude that Americans buy guns because of “fear.”

The findings of the study were published by the UK Guardian, which quoted Harvard researcher Deb Azrael suggesting Americans buy guns because of “increasing fearfulness.” She suggested that suicide and “other potential dangers of guns” might be diminished if we could somehow address that “fear.”

The Harvard-Northeastern study found that gun ownership among women is growing rapidly, and that “women were more likely to own a gun for self-defense than men.” That dovetails well with recent findings by the Crime Prevention Research Center’s (CPRC) John R. Lott, Jr., who found that twice as many women as men are obtaining concealed permits during President Obama’s second term in office. According to the CPRC, “The number of women with permits has increased twice as quickly as the number of men with permits.” That study also shows that there is evidence which “suggests that permit-holding is increasing about 75 percent more quickly among minorities than among whites.”

Yet, although the number of women who own and carry guns has been surging for years, Northeastern University and Harvard School of Public Health professor Mike Miller suggests that the increasing safety of life in America may signal an end the need to arm up for protection.

Miller, who is also one of the authors of the Harvard-Northeastern study, said, “The desire to own a gun for protection – there’s a disconnect between that and the decreasing rates of lethal violence in this country. It isn’t a response to actuarial reality.”

The problem with Miller’s observation is that it may overlook the causal role that concealed carry permits and gun ownership played, and continue to play, in making the U.S. safer.

Nevertheless, the study shows a big shift in Americans’ view of gun ownership, from buying guns for hunting and target shooting to buying guns for self-defense. And that explains why handgun ownership has risen from a reported 65 million guns in 1994 to 111 million guns in 2015.

The Guardian noted:

Even as the US has grown dramatically safer and gun violence rates have plummeted, handguns have become a greater proportion of the country’s civilian gun stock, suggesting that self-defense is an increasingly important factor in gun ownership.

The Harvard-Northeastern study has not been released for public consumption at this point. Rather, it was given exclusively to The Guardian and gun control journalism center The Trace.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com