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What is gun culture? Cultural variations and trends across the United States

Man and child looking at a target.

We developed empirical methods to identify variations in elements of gun culture across states. Using these methods, we then analyzed the prominence of these subcultures between states and over time from 1998 through 2016. Using state-level data, we conducted a principal component analysis of 11 variables associated with gun-related behaviors and retained only the significant components. We then analyzed the presence of these components over time and across states. Based on the principal component analysis, we identified three cultural variations. Component 1 reflected recreational elements of gun culture. Component 2 represented a self-defense element of gun culture. Component 3 was indicative of a symbolic cultural element centered around the protection of the Second Amendment and insurrectionism. Over time, the recreational cultural element declined in prominence while the self-defense one rose and the Second Amendment advocacy one remained stable. This paper advances the literature on gun culture by demonstrating that: (1) gun culture is not monolithic; (2) there are multiple elements of gun culture that vary substantially between states; (3) over time, the recreational gun subculture has been falling in prominence whereas the self-defense subculture has been rising; and (4) there is another subculture, distinct from the self-defense one, which consists in mobilization around the Second Amendment and was strongest in places where state firearm laws are most extensive.

Journal: Humanities & Social Sciences Communications.