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Previous research suggests that the debate on gun control legislation is heavily driven by gun ownership (e.g., Haider-Markel & Joslyn 2001; Wolpert & Gimpel 1998), a rare exception to the literature on self-interest and policy attitudes in general. However, gun owners are more likely to live in rural rather than urban areas, and simultaneously have less exposure to violent, gun-related crime. I argue that gun-owners tend to oppose gun control legislation because they live in a world in which guns are common but crime is rare. In contrast, many non-gun-owners live in cities, in which crime and gun-related crime is much more common (see Bolcher 2013). Thus, gun-owners may oppose gun control legislation not just for their own "selfish" purposes, but also because their environmental context suggests that more guns equates to less crime. In order to assess this claim, I link survey data from two 2013 Pew People & the Press surveys with county-level data from the Center for Disease Control on firearm-related homicides. This analysis permits an empirical test of the degree to which citizens oppose gun control legislation as a function of self-interest vis-à-vis sociotropic (i.e., communal) interest.


Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, Illinois, April 16, 2015.

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