Arthur Brooks at the Wall Street Journal writes:
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.
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.
The gun-owning happiness gap exists on both sides of the political aisle. Gun-owning Republicans are more likely than nonowning Republicans to be very happy (46% to 37%). Democrats with guns are slightly likelier than Democrats without guns to be very happy as well (32% to 29%). Similarly, holding income constant, one still finds that gun owners are happiest.
Why are gun owners so happy? One plausible reason is a sense of self-reliance, in terms of self-defense or even in terms of the ability to hunt their own dinner.
Many studies over the years have shown that a belief in one?s control over the environment dramatically adds to happiness. Example: a famous study of elderly nursing home patients in the 1970s. It showed dramatic improvements in life satisfaction from elements of control as seemingly insignificant as being able to care for one?s plants.
A bit of evidence that self-reliance is at work among gun owners comes from the General Social Survey. It asked whether one agrees with the statement, ?Those in need have to take care of themselves.? In 2004, gun owners were 10 percentage points more likely than nonowners to agree (60% to 50%).
Hat tip to Say Uncle.
In short: “Gun owners are normal people.” (And to think, Mr. Brooks gets paid to write such stuff.)
We’re not crazed nutjobs, we’re not criminals, we’re not inbred rednecks like from Deliverance. We’re just ordinary people, leading ordinary lives.
Many of the folks in my apartment complex are gun owners, and are perfectly ordinary people. They wake up, go to work or school, come home, care for their families, etc. Heck, a few people I know at the university are “stamp collectors” and have a whole bunch of NFA items like machine guns, while I myself own a suppressor.
The only thing that surprised me was the relatively low number of households they listed: only 34%? I know that in many areas of Montana the number exceeds 90%. In Arizona, it’s also considerably higher. Either people aren’t accurately reporting that they own guns (who can blame them? I generally consider the number of guns I own as “none of your damn business”), or the survey is asking people in very gun-unfriendly areas (San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC, etc.) and averaging them with high-ownership areas like…oh, the rest of the country. I’m curious to see their methodology.