According to a new study from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, gun ownership is more prevalent in areas of America that had a large number of enslaved people before the Civil War 160 years ago.
Researchers discovered that the higher the percentage of enslaved people in a county’s population in 1860, the more firearms its residents own today.
“What we see is a strong correlation between the number of slaves in a county in 1860 and the number of guns there now, even after we control for variables like personal politics, crime rates, education and income,” study author Dr. Nick Buttrick said. The findings, published in the journal PNAS Nexus, are the result of a new investigation into why US citizens’ attitudes toward guns differ so greatly from those of other people around the world.
“Gun culture is one case where American Exceptionalism truly is true,” said Dr. Buttrick, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
We are radically different even from countries with similar cultural roots, such as Canada or Australia.”
More than 45 percent of the world’s civilian-owned firearms are in the United States, which has only 5% of the world’s population.
According to a Pew Research Centre survey, two-thirds of Americans who own guns do so to feel safe, whereas people in other countries are more likely to believe that a gun adds risk and danger to their lives.
According to the new study, before the American Civil War began in 1861, guns were viewed as hunting tools and were not as common as they are today.
However, following slave emancipation in 1863 and the Civil War, guns became widely regarded as a source of protection in areas where there were a large number of enslaved people.
The report emphasizes how racism and racist rhetoric among white Southerners contributed to the belief that guns were necessary for safety.
“White political leaders emphasized the South was now a dangerous place uninterested in keeping white people safe,” Dr. Buttrick said.
It resulted in the rise of armed white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, as well as calls to arms from leaders who urged people to further oppress black citizens.
According to the study, the belief that guns provide safety is rooted in Southern culture in America, which explains why gun ownership is so prevalent in that region of the country today.
“The extent to which people feel unsafe only predicts gun ownership in counties in the South, where the more unsafe people feel, the more likely they are to own a gun,” Dr. Buttrick explained.
“Whether people feel unsafe in areas that did not have slaves in the 1860s does not predict today’s county-level gun ownership.”
However, he claims that the sentiment has spread throughout the United States as a result of people traveling, relocating, and using social media.
“As people move, they bring the culture that formed them,” Dr. Buttrick said. “We see the remnants of those moves and the lingering connections to family and community in people’s social media connections.” ”
He continued: “It helps to explain why protective gun ownership is so popular in the United States but not elsewhere.”