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 highlights how gun violence is structured in powerful ways by traditional, patriarchal masculinities. Also see XY's complementary collection on "Mass shootings and masculinity".
The collection includes three sections:
- Notes on the issue of guns in general;
- Shorter pieces on guns and masculinity;
- Longer pieces (academic articles and reports) on guns and masculinity
Further inclusions are most welcome.
(a) Notes on guns
More guns means more gun deaths. This is true, at a country-by-country or international level, at a state-by-state level in comparing different levels of gun ownership or different levels of gun control within the one country such as the USA, and at a household level when comparing households with different levels of gun ownership or forms of gun storage.
- 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).
- 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).
- An epidemiological review of the association between firearm legislation and firearm-related injuries, based on evidence from 130 studies in 10 countries, “suggests that in certain nations the simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths. Laws restricting the purchase of (e.g., background checks) and access to (e.g., safer storage) firearms are also associated with lower rates of intimate partner homicides and firearm unintentional deaths in children, respectively” (Santaella-Tenorio, Cerdá, Villaveces, & Galea, 2016).
- 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 ﬁrearm homicide rates. […] states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from ﬁrearm-related homicides.” (Siegel, Ross, & King, 2013)
- A study of violent crime for 1,997 counties in the US found that the increased prevalence of firearms is associated with higher levels of violent crime, homicide, rape, robbery, and assault (Moore & Bergner, 2016).
- A study of state-level rates of household gun ownership and annual rates of criminal acts found that higher levels of firearm ownership are associated with higher levels of firearm assault and firearm robbery (Monuteaux, Lee, Hemenway, Mannix, & Fleegler, 2015).
- There are higher rates of suicide and homicide victimisation among people with access to guns than among people without access to guns, according to a meta-analysis of 16 studies (Anglemyer, Horvath, & Rutherford, 2014).
Various studies focus on gun controls rather than gun ownership, and they too find that looser gun legislation is associated with higher levels of homicide, suicide, and gun-related injury, while stronger gun legislation is associated with lower levels of homicide, suicide, and gun-related injury.
- States with stronger firearm laws have lower rates of firearm suicide and firearm homicide. This is the finding of a US study of all gun deaths over 2007-2010 and state-level firearm legislation (Fleegler, Lee, Monuteaux, Hemenway, & Mannix, 2013)
- Stricter gun controls are associated with lower levels of gun-related injury and death. A national US study across 44 states, comparing gun legislation and gun-related injuries in hospitals, found that states without strict legislation have higher firearm-related injury & death rates (Jehan et al., 2018).
- State gun legislation has an impact on rates of nonfatal gun injuries. A US study across 18 states found that stricter gun legislation was associated with lower rates of nonfatal firearm injuries in hospital and emergency departments (Simonetti, Rowhani-Rahbar, Mills, Young, & Rivara, 2015).
- State gun legislation has an impact on rates of mass shootings. States with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership have higher rates of mass shootings. A 10% increase in state gun ownership was associated with a significant 35% higher rate of mass shootings, as this study found (Reeping et al., 2019).
Gun control makes a difference to the use of guns in domestic violence, namely intimate partner homicide:
- States with stronger gun control legislation have lower levels of homicides against female intimate partners, as this study found (Sivaraman, Ranapurwala, Moracco, & Marshall, 2019).
- Laws limiting 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.
Gun control also is associated with lower levels of gun-related injury and death among children.
- States with looser gun control laws have higher rates of gun-related injuries and hospital admissions among children, particularly those involving accidental and self-inflicted injuries, according to this US study (Tashiro, Lane, Blass, Perez, & Sola, 2016).
- Stricter gun control is associated with lower levels of gun-related deaths among children. States with stricter gun laws and laws requiring universal background checks for firearm purchase had lower firearm-related mortality rates in children, as this US study found (Goyal et al., 2019).
Higher levels of gun ownership and lower levels of gun control also are associated with suicide.
- 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).
- A more recent meta-analysis of 16 studies “found strong evidence for increased odds of suicide among persons with access to firearms compared with those without access” (Anglemyer et al., 2014, p. 105).
- 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).
- A study of the effect of Connecticut’s implementation of a handgun permit-to-purchase law found that the law was associated with a 40% reduction in Connecticut’s firearm homicide rates during the first 10 years that the law was in place (Rudolph, Stuart, Vernick, & Webster, 2015).
- 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 found (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 shows (World Health Organization, 2014, p. 34).
On the other hand, the weakening or loosening of gun control legislation leads to increases in gun-related homicides.
- Missouri’s 2007 repeal of its permit-to-purchase (PTP) handgun law led to a 23% increase in annual firearm homicides rates and a 16% increase in annual murders rates, as this study found (Webster, Crifasi, & Vernick, 2014).
- The passage of laws allowing concealed carry of guns without a permit or completion of a training course in southern Arizona led to a 27% increase in the proportion of homicides that were gun-related, as this study found (Ginwalla et al., 2014).
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).
Also see this recent piece by the Scientific American, The Science Is Clear: Gun Control Saves Lives (May 26 2022).
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
- Campoamor, I Am So Tired of Shouting Into the Void About America’s Young Men and Their Guns. Cosmpolitan, March 24 2021
- Devega, Gun crazy: For too many Americans, guns are tied to masculinity, patriotism and white power. Salon, April 26 2021.
- Cockburn, World disarmament - Start by disarming masculinity, April 30 2015
- Farr, Women, men and the struggle to disarm
- Levant, Ronald, and Christopher Kilmartin, Message about aggressive masculinity is key to Sandy Hook lawsuit against Remington, Feb. 28 2022
- McLean, Chris. (ed). (1997). Comment, Special Issue: Responding to Issues of Guns and Violence, No. 3, Adelaide: Dulwich Centre
- Okun, Mass Shootings - It’s the Masculinity, People. CounterPunch, May 23 2022
- Page, Ella. (2009). Men masculinity and guns. International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women's Network.
- Plank, How guns are marked as a gateway to manliness. MSNBC, Feb 21 2022
- Shapiro, Guys and guns: Why men are behind the vast majority of America's gun violence, Nov 3 2021
- Vandegrift, Mourning after mass shootings isn’t enough – a sociologist argues that society’s messages about masculinity need to change, Dec 15 2021
(c) Academic articles and reports on guns, men, and masculinities
- Bassin, A. (1997). Why packing a pistol perpetuates patriarchy. Hastings Women’s Law Journal, 8(2).
- Bevan, James, and Nicolas Florquin. (2006). Few Options but the Gun: Angry Young Men. In Small Arms Survey 2006: Unfinished Business. Geneva: Oxford University Press
- BICC, Gender perspectives on small arms
- Bridges, Tristan, and Tober, Tara Leigh. (2022). Mass Shootings and Masculinity. Expert Report prepared for The Joint Federal/Provincial Commission into the April 2020 Nova Scotia Mass Casualty.
- Buchanan, C., V. Farr, M. Flood, and J. Galeria. (2005). Women, Men, and Gun Violence: Options for action. In Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. (eds.) Missing Pieces: Directions for reducing gun violence through the UN process on small arms control. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (pp. 68-78).
- Farr, K. (2018). Adolescent rampage school shootings: Responses to failing masculinity performances by already-troubled boys. Gender Issues, 35(2), 73-97.
- Farr, Vanessa, Henri Myrttinen and Albrecht Schnabel. (2009). Sexed Pistols: The gendered impacts of small arms and light weapons. Tokyo, New York & Paris: United Nations University Press [Excerpt]
- IANSA. (2022). Ways to Address Hegemonic Masculinity and Gun Violence. International Action Network on Small Arms Briefing Paper, February 2022 (English, French, Spanish).
- Myrttinen, H. (2003). Disarming Masculinities. Disarmament Forum, 4: 37-46.
- Wilkinson, Deanna, and Jeffrey Fagan. (1996). Understanding the Role of Firearms in Violence ‘Scripts’: The Dynamics of Gun Events Among Adolescent Males. Law and Contemporary Problems, 59(1), pp. 55-90.
- Widmer, M. (with G. Barker. and C. Buchanan). (2006). Hitting the Target: Men and Guns. Revcon Policy Brief, June.
- This collection on men's rights, including news reports on mass shootings such as the Toronto massacre in April 2018;
- This XY collection on "Mass shootings and masculinity"
- 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.
Anglemyer, A., Horvath, T., & Rutherford, G. (2014). The accessibility of firearms and risk for suicide and homicide victimization among household members: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 160(2), 101-110.
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., & Jones, M. (2016). Association between gun law reforms and intentional firearm deaths in Australia, 1979-2013. JAMA, 316(3), 291-299.
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.
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.
Fleegler, E. W., Lee, L. K., Monuteaux, M. C., Hemenway, D., & Mannix, R. (2013). Firearm legislation and firearm-related fatalities in the United States. JAMA Internal Medicine, 173(9), 732-740.
Gabor, T. (2016). Confronting gun violence in America. Springer.
Ginwalla, R., Rhee, P., Friese, R., Green, D. J., Gries, L., Joseph, B., . . . Vercruysse, G. (2014). Repeal of the concealed weapons law and its impact on gun-related injuries and deaths. Journal of trauma and acute care surgery, 76(3), 569-575.
Goyal, M. K., Badolato, G. M., Patel, S. J., Iqbal, S. F., Parikh, K., & McCarter, R. (2019). State gun laws and pediatric firearm-related mortality. Pediatrics, 144(2), e20183283.
Jehan, F., Pandit, V., O’Keeffe, T., Azim, A., Jain, A., Tai, S. A., . . . Gries, L. (2018). The burden of firearm violence in the United States: stricter laws result in safer states. Journal of Injury and Violence Research, 10(1), 11.
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.
Monuteaux, M. C., Lee, L. K., Hemenway, D., Mannix, R., & Fleegler, E. W. (2015). Firearm Ownership and Violent Crime in the U.S.: An Ecologic Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 49(2), 207-214. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.02.008
Moore, M. D., & Bergner, C. (2016). The relationship between firearm ownership and violent crime. Justice Policy Journal, 13(1), 1-20.
Reeping, P. M., Cerdá, M., Kalesan, B., Wiebe, D. J., Galea, S., & Branas, C. C. (2019). State gun laws, gun ownership, and mass shootings in the US: cross sectional time series. Bmj, 364, l542.
Rudolph, K. E., Stuart, E. A., Vernick, J. S., & Webster, D. W. (2015). Association between Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase handgun law and homicides. American Journal of Public Health, 105(8), e49-e54.
Santaella-Tenorio, J., Cerdá, M., Villaveces, A., & Galea, S. (2016). What do we know about the association between firearm legislation and firearm-related injuries? Epidemiologic reviews, 38(1), 140-157.
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
Simonetti, J. A., Rowhani-Rahbar, A., Mills, B., Young, B., & Rivara, F. P. (2015). State firearm legislation and nonfatal firearm injuries. American Journal of Public Health, 105(8), 1703-1709.
Sivaraman, J. J., Ranapurwala, S. I., Moracco, K. E., & Marshall, S. W. (2019). Association of state firearm legislation with female intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 56(1), 125-133.
Stroebe, W. (2013). Firearm possession and violent death: A critical review. Aggression and violent behavior, 18(6), 709-721. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2013.07.025
Tashiro, J., Lane, R. S., Blass, L. W., Perez, E. A., & Sola, J. E. (2016). The effect of gun control laws on hospital admissions for children in the United States. Journal of trauma and acute care surgery, 81(4), S54-S60. doi:10.1097/ta.0000000000001177
Webster, D., Crifasi, C. K., & Vernick, J. S. (2014). Effects of the Repeal of Missouri’s Handgun Purchaser Licensing Law on Homicides. Journal of Urban Health, 91(2), 293-302. doi:10.1007/s11524-014-9865-8
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.