Guns, violence, and masculinity: an XY collection

What is the evidence about the links between rates of gun ownership and rates of gun violence? What are the links between guns, violence, and masculinity?

This XY collection summarises research on the links between gun availability or ownership and gun violence. And it highlight how gun violence is structured in powerful ways by traditional, patriarchal masculinities.

The collection includes four sections:

  1. Notes on the issue of guns in general;
  2. Shorter pieces on guns and masculinity;
  3. Academic articles and reports; and
  4. Other online pieces.

Further inclusions are most welcome.

(a) Notes on guns

More guns means more gun deaths.

  • Americans are 5% of the world’s population, but own 31% of the world’s privately-owned guns. US rates of gun homicide are 22 times those of Australia, 32 times those of Spain, and over 340 times those of Japan. American children and teenagers are 65 times more likely to be killed with a gun than those in the UK, as this book reports (Gabor, 2016, pp. 6-8).
  • The U.S.A. has uniquely high rates of firearm homicide, far higher than other countries’ rates. As a recent review notes, this is not due to a general predisposition to violence: US rates of physical assault are low compared to other countries’ rates (Wintemute, 2015).
  • Comparing states within the USA, there is a statistical association between rates of gun ownership and rates of gun-related homicide. A study of all 50 states over 1981 to 2010 found “a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher rearm homicide rates. […] states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from rearm-related homicides.” (Siegel, Ross, & King, 2013)
  • A comprehensive review of the data on firearm possession and violent death finds consistent evidence that gun ownership is associated with higher levels of gun-related suicide and homicide. Guns do not substitute for other means of killing, but increase overall rates (Stroebe, 2013).
  • The risk of suicide is higher in households with guns present. The increase in risk, according to a range of US studies, is 2 to 10 times higher than in households without guns (Miller & Hemenway, 2008).
  • When guns are available, ‘successful’ suicides are more likely. Thoughts of suicide are often impulsive, and can pass if the means to try suicide are not available. Limiting access to the *means* of suicide, including guns, is a successful prevention strategy, as this paper notes (Lewiecki & Miller, 2013).

Gun control leads to decreases in homicides and suicides.

  • A study of permit-to-purchase (PTP) laws in large urban counties in the US finds that PTP laws were associated with a 14% reduction in firearm homicide (Crifasi et al., 2018).
  • A study of state firearm regulations in the US over 1995-2004 found that, “firearms regulations which function to reduce overall gun availability have a significant deterrent effect on male suicide” (Andrés & Hempstead, 2011).
  • Australian gun reforms led to declines in *gun suicides and homicides*, and there was *no substitution effect* for suicides and homicides, as a 2006 paper finds (Chapman, Alpers, Agho, & Jones, 2006). A further, more recent study of intentional firearm homicides in Australia found that the “Implementation of a ban on rapid-fire firearms was associated with reductions in mass shootings and total firearm deaths” (Chapman, Alpers, & Jones, 2016, p. 292).
  • Legislation limiting firearms ownership has been shown to reduce firearms suicide rates in many countries, as an international report by the World Health Organization show (World Health Organization, 2014, p. 34).

Gun control also makes a difference to the use of guns in domestic violence, namely intimate partner homicide:

  • Laws on gun ownership by domestic violence perpetrators *make a difference*. US research finds that in states with laws requiring that offenders not buy, or give up, firearms, there are lower levels of intimate partner homicides (Díez et al., 2017).
  • When strong gun laws are on the books and enforced properly, they work to reduce domestic violence-related homicides. US data shows that state laws preventing abusers from having guns lead to reductions in partner homicide rates.

A review article in the Scientific American finds that:

  • An armed home is not a safer home, and in fact has higher risk of homicide and suicide.
  • Gun use in self-defense in homes is rare.
  • Gun use / carrying does not deter crime. More guns, more crime.

The American fantasy of the ‘good guy with a gun’, stopping criminals, is not matched by the evidence. Those who carry guns often have their own guns used against them. And a civilian with a gun is more likely to be killed than to kill an attacker.

  • US research finds that if you are carrying a gun, you are over 4 times *more likely to be shot* in an assault than if you’re not carrying a gun. In short, “guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault”, and made getting shot far more likely (Branas, Richmond, Culhane, Ten Have, & Wiebe, 2009).

Rates of gun ownership in the U.S. vary strongly across states: as low as 5% in some, as high as 62% in others. Research finds statistical associations between gun ownership and *gun culture* - people’s attitudes and beliefs about owning guns (Kalesan, Villarreal, Keyes, & Galea, 2016).

[See below for the bibliography of the citations given.]

(b) Shorter pieces on guns, men, and masculinities

(c) Academic articles and reports on guns, men, and masculinities

(d) Further online pieces

Also see this bibliography of academic scholarship on guns, men, and masculinities.


Andrés, A. R., & Hempstead, K. (2011). Gun control and suicide: The impact of state firearm regulations in the United States, 1995–2004. Health Policy, 101(1), 95-103.

Branas, C. C., Richmond, T. S., Culhane, D. P., Ten Have, T. R., & Wiebe, D. J. (2009). Investigating the link between gun possession and gun assault. American Journal of Public Health, 99(11), 2034-2040.

Chapman, S., Alpers, P., Agho, K., & Jones, M. (2006). Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms: faster falls in firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings. Injury prevention, 12(6), 365-372.

Chapman, S., Alpers, P., & Jones, M. (2016). Association between gun law reforms and intentional firearm deaths in Australia, 1979-2013. JAMA, 316(3), 291-299.

Crifasi, C. K., Merrill-Francis, M., McCourt, A., Vernick, J. S., Wintemute, G. J., & Webster, D. W. (2018). Association between Firearm Laws and Homicide in Urban Counties. Journal of Urban Health, 95(3), 383-390. doi:10.1007/s11524-018-0273-3

Díez, C., Kurland, R. P., Rothman, E. F., Bair-Merritt, M., Fleegler, E., Xuan, Z., . . . Goss, K. A. (2017). State intimate partner violence–related firearm laws and intimate partner homicide rates in the United States, 1991 to 2015. Annals of internal medicine, 167(8), 536-543.

Gabor, T. (2016). Confronting gun violence in America. Springer.

Kalesan, B., Villarreal, M. D., Keyes, K. M., & Galea, S. (2016). Gun ownership and social gun culture. Injury prevention, 22(3), 216-220.

Lewiecki, E. M., & Miller, S. A. (2013). Suicide, guns, and public policy. American Journal of Public Health, 103(1), 27-31.

Miller, M., & Hemenway, D. (2008). Guns and suicide in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(10), 989-991.

Siegel, M., Ross, C. S., & King, C. (2013). The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010. American Journal of Public Health, 103(11), 2098-2105. doi:10.2105/ajph.2013.301409

Stroebe, W. (2013). Firearm possession and violent death: A critical review. Aggression and violent behavior, 18(6), 709-721. doi:

Wintemute, G. J. (2015). The epidemiology of firearm violence in the twenty-first century United States. Annual review of public health, 36, 5-19.

World Health Organization. (2014). Preventing suicide: A global imperative. Geneva: World Health Organization.