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Guns and Fear
Abstract and Figures
Surveys show that more than one half of gun owners report owning their firearm for self-protection. Although research has examined the effect of fear of crime on gun ownership, the issue of reciprocity and temporal order has been largely ignored. Furthermore, the effect of firearm acquisition and relinquishment on fear has not been evaluated empirically. We hypothesize that the relationship between fear and gun ownership is reciprocal. As James Wright and Peter Rossi noted, it may be that “the initially most fearful may arm themselves and then feel psychologically safer because of it.” Using two-wave panel data, we found, as expected, that higher fear among nonowners encourages them to become gun owners, but lower fear among gun owners does not encourage gun relinquishment. We also found that gun acquisition does not reduce fear, but relinquishment increases fear, suggesting the relationship between guns and fear may be asymmetrical.
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