Skip to main content

Social Disruption, Gun Buying, and Anti-System Beliefs (WP-22-13)

Matthew Lacombe, Matthew Simonson, Jon Green, and James Druckman

Gun ownership is a highly consequential political behavior. It often signifies a belief about the inadequacy of state-provided security and leads to membership in a powerful political constituency (which is commonly mobilized by the National Rifle Association). As such, understanding why people purchase guns and how doing so affects the composition of gun owners is important, as it can have palpable political consequences. The researchers address these issues by exploring the dynamics of one of the largest gun-buying spikes in American history, which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. They show that feelings of diffuse threat prompted many to buy guns. Moreover, new gun owners, even more than buyers who already owned guns, exhibit strong conspiracy and anti-system beliefs. This has substantial consequences for the subsequent population of gun owners, and provides insight into how social disruptions can alter the nature of political groups.

Matthew Lacombe, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Barnard College - Columbia University

Matthew Simonson, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Pennsylvania

Jon Green, Senior Research Scientist, Political Science, Northeastern University

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Download PDF