Black Gun Ownership

What fraction of blacks in America own guns?


A Pew Research Center 2017 survey gives us some estimates: Black gun ownership is lower than white gun ownership—but not by much. For whites, 36% of respondents report that they own a gun personally, and 49% report that they live in a household in which someone (whether they or someone else) owns a gun. For blacks, the numbers are 2/3 of that: 24% and 32%. (The numbers are lower for Hispanics, 15% and 21%.) In raw numbers, there are about 40 million blacks in the U.S., so about 13 million (or likely about 10 million adults) live in gun-owning households.

This seems to closely track different gun ownership based on ideology. Blacks generally vote about 90% in general elections for Democratic candidates, so it's fair to say that they are generally Democrats or lean Democrats. Among all respondents who said they were Democrats or leaned Democrat, the numbers were 20% personal gun ownership, 30% household. Assuming that the great majority of blacks fall in this political category, white and black gun ownership among Democrats and Democrat-leaners seems to be virtually identical.

But in any event, there are lots of black gun owners out there, just as there are lots of Democrat gun owners. I can't speak to what fraction of gun rights activists or gun rights enthusiasts are black—it's certainly possible that black gun owners are on average less likely to focus on this issue politically than white gun owners. But it seems pretty likely that many black gun owners do care in considerable measure about their right to own guns, whatever fraction of them might or might not show up to, say, gun rights rallies. (Naturally, this tells us nothing about what is good gun policy; I am speaking here only of demographics.)

NEXT: Why Do Evangelical Christians Support Israel?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “But in any event, there are lots of black gun owners out there, just as there are lots of Democrat gun owners.”

    You can put a Republican on a strong law faculty (occasionally) but you can’t entirely separate a movement conservative from the Limbaugh-Hannity-Trump-clinger vocabulary (which claims “Democrat” is not just a noun).

    1. In my Propaganda, Persuasion, & Influence class, we were taught to be careful not to adopt the language the propagandist is directing at the target audience as our own. In this case, Prof. Volokh is communicating clearly and effectively by using a word that is completely unambiguous (“Democrat”) while not adopting left-wing messaging in the process (“Democratic”). Furthermore, it’s possible that Prof. Volokh is simply tailoring his message to his own target audience, who presumably consists of mostly conservatives and libertarians.

      1. Get an education. Start with standard English.

        1. Yea, the King’s English, we should all be fluent….but don’t forget to also include those made up pronouns Democrats want us to use.

        2. You have no room to talk, RAK.

          1. Do you contend I am not literate enough for you, Rossami?

            1. You misspelled “elitist”.

        3. I’ve completed graduate school, and English is my native language.

    2. I know, right? If you want to be taken seriously, you shouldn’t use phrases like, “Democrat gun owners,” you should refer to your opponents as “goobers.” See, at least Kirkland knows how to show a little class.

      “…it’s fair to say that they are generally Democrats or lean Democrats.”

      And did you see how he insinuated that most Democrats are fat? I bet you missed that one.

    3. Gee, that really, really refuted the author’s assertion, eh, Rev?

      1. This blog purports to have a legal, academic, learned veneer, ostensibly distinguishing it from other partisan political blogs. Demonstrating that most Conspirators do not differ so much from other polemical movement conservatives seems worthwhile.

        May the better ideas win.

        1. You think you’ve established the authors “do not differ much from other polemical movement conservatives” by noting that one of them used the word “Democrat” as an adjective?

          And yet you still have the audacity to act like you have some sort of superior logic? Okay, man. You do you.

  2. whatever fraction of them might or might not show up to, say, gun rights rallies.

    I don’t go to gun rights rallies for the same reason I don’t go to Bernie rallies. I don’t like hanging out with groups of people who are delusional.

    As a gun owner I believe in the right to own guns. I also believe there are limits to said rights including excluding that right from people with clear mental issues. Such as members of the NRA and most Reason commenters.

    1. Look, Batman, it’s the virtue signal.

      1. Some people signal virtue, or social justice.

        Others signal old-timey intolerance, or belligerent ignorance, or disaffected backwardness.

        I gather you’ve picked your side.

    2. Ahh, another elitist poster claiming to be a gun owner. Then proceeds to tell us all those other gun owners have “mental issues” and are “delusional”. Thanks Sparky, but we’ve all heard that fairy tale way too many times to buy it. Try another one, where you heroically confront a Trump supporter with a MAGA hat in the check out line at Whole Foods. We all love that story, it starts “once upon a time …” … or was that “Dear Penthouse, I never thought it would happen to me but …”

      1. Read the comment again, Don.

    3. LOL, the Soviet psychiatrist has shown up.

      Only insane people could oppose Communism.

      You, comrade, oppose Communism.

      Therefore, comrade, you are insane. This way, please.

      1. You are definitely responding to a sincere comment meaningfully calling you crazy.

  3. I don’t want to speculate too much but will add a couple factors to be considered in evaluating black v. white gun ownership.
    1. I suspect there are a lot more, percentagewise, blacks who own guns exclusively for protection around the house/home than whites. Said another way, I suspect whites are a lot more likely to take their guns out to the range and especially to hunt than blacks. The kinds of guns most popular for home protection – handguns – are less useful for hunting than long guns – shotguns and rifles. I’ve been hunting and shooting – almost exclusively small game, i.e., gamebirds and rabbits – actively for 45 years now, and have encountered exactly one black man also hunting. We hunted together for a couple hours, saw no game, and nonetheless enjoyed the hunt. Seeing so few blacks hunting may be an artifact of my living in the northeast as contrasted to, say, the south, but I don’t know.
    2. People lie about their gun ownership, especially when they own guns. Keeping others ignorant of your gun ownership is one of the surest ways to avoid the topic coming up in any context. By way of example, I have lived in the same place for 10 years, in a state with very lenient gun laws, have been very active in hunting and target shooting, and have never mentioned to my landlord or his family or most of my neighbors the fact that I own guns and hunt. I slip them into and out of the car in the middle of the night. This is for several reasons: not wanting to offend the landlord (esp. his wife), the landlord having a young son with a deep curiosity about and interest in guns combined with a big mouth and no discretion, and to avoid the knowledge of “guns here” from spreading (as it would) eventually to someone who might be inclined to try stealing them from my home. Amplifying that (and at the risk of sounding a bit less than PC), many of the large cities with substantial black populations have stringent gun control laws which in the first place limit legal access to the favored few, and those favored few are usually not the ordinary black person. So, fostering ignorance by keeping quiet (or lying) about ownership also avoids potential encounters with the law. Moreover, those large cities which tend Democratic are most likely to have stringent gun control laws, depressing (lawfully declared) ownership independent of the individual political leanings. In more rural areas I suspect there will be some greater visibility of black gun ownership in contexts outside purely defending the home, i.e., hunting and target shooting. But, regrettably, “Black man with a gun” usually draws a police response everywhere. So ownership stays hidden.
    3. Interesting historical fact: Martin Luther King applied for a concealed carry permit early on in his work. He was denied, deemed by the police to be “unsuitable”. He nonetheless kept guns in his home for self-defense for some time afterward but appeared to have stopped that practice in later years. At one point, King’s home was described by someone visiting as “an arsenal”.
    There are more factors impacting upon varying rates of ownership but I suspect in the end analysis a true view of ownership would reveal ownership basically at the same rates for blacks and whites, after adjusting for local laws and conditions.

    1. I’m glad somebody else pointed this out. The gun owners I know generally have them for hunting, not self defense. The also generally live in rural areas (or at least suburban areas and then travel out to hunting camps/cabins). I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an African American hunter.

      I can also understand why African Americans would be reluctant to tell anyone that they own a gun. Making such an announcement hasn’t always worked out for them.

      Besides, if there is a difference, I can understand why African Americans may have a different cost-benefit analysis for carrying guns than your typical suburban white. See further Philando Castile.

      1. The gun owners I know generally have them for hunting, not self defense. The also generally live in rural areas

        The latter would tend to explain the selection bias leading to the former.

        I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an African American hunter.

        You need to get out more. I have met quite a few. Some in the field (or more accurately, in parking areas adjacent to public hunting lands), some at sporting goods stores and others just going about every day life. For a couple of years there was black gentleman who manned the security desk in my office building, and, whom I learned was an avid hunter. During the late fall through winter it wasn’t uncommon for us to spend time chatting, updating one another on how our hunting seasons were going, when I stopped by his desk as I was on my way out for the evening.

  4. In recent years, several black men have been shot by police while sleeping in their cars, simply because the police saw a gun. And don’t even get me started on what happens to black people who are awake. So I’m going to venture that gun ownership might be common enough among African Americans, but actually carrying that gun around not so much. That’s just Darwinism in action.

    1. How many black gun owners had perfectly benign interactions with law enforcement officers over that same time period, would you say?

      1. Not as many as you probably think.

        (Or, to put that another way, their idea of “perfectly benign” is probably not the same as yours.)

        1. One comes to mind in which a North Carolina black man was rolling a cigarette in in his car and the cop assumed it was marijuana and so the fact he also had a gun apparently made him a threat…a stand-off ensued the man was shot by a cop.

        2. Not as many as you probably think.

          I love how you constantly pretend to know things that you don’t actually know.

    2. I don’t have the gift for sensing things out of the ether, so I went a’googlin.

      “Eight states that had similar information on race showed that 11% of permit holders were black.” (vs 13 to 14% of the population, according to the 2010 census)

      (from the PDF available here)

    3. “””…recent years, several black men have been shot by police while sleeping in their cars…”

      The problem with your argument is that, statistically,
      it wasn’t their car(s).

    4. 1. Interesting conjecture — plausible on its face. So is the conjecture that, because blacks tend to live in parts of town with a higher crime rate, actual carrying that gun around might be more common. (Again, I stress that both are just conjectures.) Hard to tell for sure how a large population will, on average, weigh the risks and benefits.

      2. In any event, say that most blacks don’t carry guns around much. That would make them like most gun owners (and thus likely like most white gun owners); according to the report I cite, 74% of all handgun owners carry in public either never (43%) or “only some of the time” (31%), as opposed to always or most of the time. And that’s just of handgun owners; I suspect that people who own only rifles or shotguns carry even more rarely. Most gun owners just aren’t frequent gun carriers in public — and yet they may still appreciate having gun, appreciate their right to have a gun, enjoy going to the shooting range, and so on, whether they are white or black.

      3. But in any case, why just conjecture? Texas, for instance, provides statistics on concealed carry license applications by race — not a perfect proxy for frequency of carrying, to be sure, but something of a proxy. They reveal that, in the last two years, about 8% of granted concealed carry applications came from blacks. About 12% of the population of Texas is black, so the ratio is … pretty much the same 2/3 as the black/white ownership rate ratio I talk about in the post.

      1. You’re always going to see a lower black ownership rates of guns, because black is conflated with urban. Blacks are more urban, and urban folks own guns at a lower rate, no matter what race they are.

        According to PEW: “Among adults who live in rural areas, 46% say they own a gun, compared with 28% of adults who live in the suburbs and even fewer – 19% – in urban areas…”

      2. I suspect that people who own only rifles or shotguns carry even more rarely.

        I may be one of the few people in the U.S. who has a bit of experience hitchhiking while displaying a rifle—which I did from time to time in rural Idaho in the 1970s. I sometimes took multi-day walks in the mountains, carrying a fishing rod and a .22 magnum lever-action, and packing no food. Wherever I happened to come out, I would stand by the side of the road, make sure the rifle was on prominent display, and stick my thumb out, to get a ride going back in the direction of where I left my car. In that limited experiment, hitchhiking with a rifle seemed to be far easier than without. Often, the first pickup going by would stop.

        Likewise, around the same time, I had friend from Chicago, who owned an open jeep. One day we decided to go pheasant hunting, outside Boise. He drove, and I sat in the passenger seat, holding the two shotguns butt-down on the floor between my feet—both of us wearing hunting vests with the usual shells.

        No luck with pheasants, so we decided to head back through town, to reach the foot-hills on the other side, and look for partridges. As we drove past the state capitol building, my friend glanced my way and said, “You know, in Chicago they would cut our balls off for this.” I hadn’t given it a thought.

        There was a great feeling of freedom in being able to do stuff like that. A notable percentage of pickup trucks had long guns, displayed on gun racks in their back windows. The Forest Service reported a survey result, saying > 90% of vehicles checked in the national forests contained guns.

        None of that strikes me as adding up to, or even sensibly contributing to, any notion that packing pistols in urban areas is now a defensible norm. And I would be pretty careful before relying on Texas concealed carry statistics. When I looked into them a few years back, they seemed to show that out of millions of licensees, almost none were ever involved in domestic abuse, or found to be intoxicated. It was as if gun carrying were an absolute cure for those social ills. I doubt it is. It made me distrust the statistics, and wonder about the legal processes associated with compiling them.

        1. The legal process associated with the Florida and Texas stats was that cynics like you insisted that those states maintain statistics on crimes by permitted/licensed carriers vs the general population vs police officers in the hope of finding a crime wave by legal carriers so they could yell, told you so, and repeal the permit/license laws.

          Florida concealed carry statistics, like Texas concealed carry statistics, show that concealed carry permit/license holders commit crimes not only at a rate lower than the average adult Texan/Floridian but are more law abiding than police officers.

          For a long while, my local newspaper here in Tennessee would report the handgun carry permit status of everyone arrested for criminal or reckless use of firearms: NONE had handgun carry permits.

          Also my duty to inform police that I had a HCP on a traffic stop was dropt because officers were not having problems with HCP holders. The state Department of Safety and Homeland Security responsible for administering the handgun carry permit has no complaints.

          I am truly sorry that reality conflicts with your apriori assumptions about legally armed citizens. Try thinking outside your box or observing without your blinders on.

      3. I suspect, without data, that blacks are denied carry permits more often than whites. there is data showing that blacks are less likely to have passports, driver’s licenses, and high school diplomas, or juris doctorates. i suspect that these are partly due to the cost – blacks tend to have less wealth than whites, and partly due to less interest in licenses and paperwork generally. it might follow that the rate of blacks with guns but no permits is higher. i also suspect that the percent of blacks who have guns but deny it to white pollsters is higher than for whites. i also suspect that percentagewise, thge number of blacks who have guns but are also felons is higher than for whites. this would be a good reason to not volunteer this information to a pollster.

        1. “I suspect, without data, that blacks are denied carry permits more often than whites….”

          If you’re talking about one of the few remaining may-issue states, perhaps, but most of the states have shall-issue permit systems, where everyone who meets the statutory requirements must be issued a permit.

          (You are right about historical times, of course – Jim Crow sheriffs absolutely discriminated. For example, MLK was famously rejected when he applied, and he had the justification for one if anyone did. But shall-issue, by design, ended all that.)

      4. Well, there was 1970s testimony before Congress by the gun judge for Chicago. He frequently dismissed illegal gun charges against black citizens because (a) most were non-criminals carrying for self defense and (b) most gun arrests involved blatant violation of Fourth Amendment search and seizure.
        Don B. Kates had a discussion of it in his book “Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out”, North River Press, 1979.

        This was Chicago. Ordinary black people could not buy guns legally or get permits to carry. If asked by a pollster with their phone number if they owned a gun, does anyone think they would answer yes?

    5. Oooh, the sneering Euro is back!

  5. Philando Castile was a black man who lawfully owned a gun. And his family got little support from the NRA.

    1. Not the same issue as black gun ownership, but this says a lot about the partisan valence of the gun rights protests you see these days.

      The bedfellows of the NRA are different than those of EV that he’s hoping to foreground. That sorting has already happened. Should their come a time of choosing, I honestly wonder who will go where.

      1. You guys are fighting an NRA made up in your minds.

        At the VCDL Lobby Day Monday in Virginia, there was a black gun rights advocate asking folks if he looked like a white supremacist to them.

        The bedfellows of the NRA have included Roy Ennis and Niger Ennis of Congress of Racial Equality on the NRA Board of Directors.

        I also recall the 1960s NYC liberal attacks* on NRA for giving a gun club charter to Rob Williams to form a black guard of WWII and Korean War vets to defend his community from KKK, and for supplying civilian marksmanship ammo to gun club members in Harlem. *TRB in The New Republic for one.

        1. The NRA I’m talking about was after the takeover in the 1980s. It’s pretty different these days.
          Especially now, when it’s gotten pretty radically conservative in a bunch of somewhat threatening ways. NRA TV is no longer, but it was a helluva thing.

          I do think the black gun clubs the 1970s is a great bunch of stories. Managing to be ridiculous and heartwarming and sometimes tragic and get at some of the deep seated issues we have, and still do.

    2. The NRA doesn’t take any sides in police shootings. Ever. Whether the victims are white or black.

      1. This. And as it turns out Philando Castile was not some angel either, muddying the narrative, even if, as I believe, the cop who shot him should have been convicted and sent to prison.

        1. Randy Weaver wasn’t an angel either, and yet the gun rights movement made HIM a cause celebre.

          I mean this is obviously racism, but I know that conservatives will never admit it.

          1. “Obvious” racism isn’t obvious. Is your test of racism for conservatives is if the NRA supported Philando Castile? I can tell you now, lots of conservatives supported him, and lots of conservatives don’t support the NRA (which is corruptly run by Wayne LaPierre).

            There were plenty of contemporaneous articles and statements by prominent conservatives and organizations at the time, decrying the militarization of the police, which is the same thing that got Randy Weaver killed, btw. Here is one such article by noted conservative Rod Dreher:

            So what level of support would you deign to be sufficient for conservatives to be non-racist wrt Castille?

            1. I agree that some conservatives supported Castile. I applaud them. I think the ones that didn’t, but who supported Randy Weaver, are highly likely to be racist, and that the NRA’s refusal to support Castile was a pander to them.

              1. The NRA, as RWH pointed out, never comments on specific police shootings. Part of why, is that it has lots of law enforcement support. And it wasn’t just *some* conservatives, it was many, and prominent ones. How often do you read conservative media and blogs, might I ask? Just do an internet search, I’m not going to compile a survey, but you’ll see many contemporaneous articles on the issue.

                There is no evidence of racism. You are making the ecological fallacy, by the way, with assuming that those who support Randy Weaver are highly likely to be racist.

                And the Randy Weaver incident happened in 1992. Considering the normal American lifespan of 77 years, and 25 years between Weaver and Castille, about 33% of Americans who were alive at the time of the Weaver incident, were dead by 2017 when Castille was killed.

                1. You are making the ecological fallacy, by the way, with assuming that those who support Randy Weaver are highly likely to be racist.

                  That’s not what I said. I said that people who support Randy Weaver AND refuse to support Castile are highly likely to be racist.

                  As for the NRA, your argument that they “don’t comment on shootings” is ridiculous. Their famous letter calling federal law enforcement “jackbooted thugs” after Waco caused George HW Bush to resign. They are quite happy to criticize law enforcement when it kills people that its mostly white, conservative membership cares about. They didn’t give a hoot about Castile because he was black.

                  1. Why don’t you think they comment on specific police shootings? It was because of Waco in 1993, where the federal agents did act like jack-booted thugs. Please find a specific NRA statement on a police shooting between 1993 and now. The NRA also declines to comment after tons of other shootings except for calling for a complete investigation or other tripe.
                    And George HW Bush only joined the NRA for the 1988 primary, so his resignation was as nakedly political as his joining was.

                    I don’t think you understand what the ecological fallacy is, either. And you have zero evidence of racism. I mean zero. In your mind, conservatives are more likely to be racist than liberals, and conservatives were likely to support Weaver, and thus when they didn’t support Castille (never mind the massive differences in the two cases!) that is therefore evidence of racism. Such tremendous leaps to conclusions that don’t follow from your basis premises.

                    Fact is, many conservatives supported both Weaver and Castille, and didn’t support either. How broad is your brush, btw?

                    1. “He’s making a logical argument.”

                      Sure, that’s obvious. You will note that I said “We can agree on that.”.

                      But it’s not the case that the the NRA as an organization, or NRA members in general, supported one and not the other. When I talk about what NRA members think, this is first hand knowledge.

                      I dunno why the NRA is such a bugaboo to you. If you want to make policy arguments, make them. But you sound for all the world like right wingers going on about the ACLU/ACLU members being communists. I know hat’s not true either, because I was a member for decades. You think I’m a right wing racist stooge for being in the NRA, and the rightwingers think I’m Lenin’s right hand man for sending dues to the ACLU. And both of you are getting your erroneous information from living in a self imposed bubble, not from actually knowing the people you are falsely accusing.

                  2. Dilan, in multiple comments you opine that the NRA/its members are racist. Might I ask what the source of your information is, in particular, how many racist NRA members do you know?

                    Because I know quite a few – upwards of a hundred, maybe more – and I haven’t found any of the bigots you have found to be so prevalent, which seems statistically unlikely. Is it a local thing, that the NRA members you know in California are bigots, and not the ones I know in other states?

                    And helping the Deacons of Defense set up a local chapter in the midst of the civil rights movement, in freaking Bogolusa, LA, doesn’t sound like the work of a racist organization either.

                    “…people who support Randy Weaver AND refuse to support Castile are highly likely to be racist.”

                    We can agree on that. Maybe someday I’ll meet one.

                    1. He’s making a logical argument.

                      Two similar situations with the main difference being race. If you defend one and not the other, that’s saying something. Especially if it’s the white one you defend, and you yourself are white.

                    2. Yes, he’s making a logical argument, but without any evidence, and further, with leaps of logic involved that strain credulity in the absence of evidence. Further, when presented with evidence that prominent conservatives supported Castille from contemporaneous to the killing articles, he discounts it.

                      Are people who supported Randy Weaver but NOT Castille more likely to be racist….if you define racism as the “classic” n-word usage type of the proto-alt right of the 1990s, and not the anti-whiteness of the left today and of the black power movement similarly situated in defending Castille, them maybe.

                    3. There’s nothing similar about Weaver and Castile other than they were both killed with guns by police. Weaver was targeted FOR illegal gun ownership, and was subject of an enormous raid that killed 80+ people, including children. Castile was shot by a nervous, trigger-happy Hispanic cop who never should have been on a police force. Weaver’s death was due to an official operation/policy, whereas Castile’s was not.

                      This story is closer to the Castile shooting, but with a white victim. And the NRA didn’t comment on it either.


                    4. Logical arguments don’t need evidence, m_k. And unless you point out the leap/fallacy, it’s you who are failing. Fact’s can’t refute logic, and vice versa – they’re two different methods of argumentation.

                      He doesn’t discount people who supported both – he says they are not part of his logical argument.

                      I don’t get why you’re having trouble with this.

                  3. Mr Esper.
                    The NRA government jack-booted thug comment was directed at the FBI HRT over-kill at both Ruby Ridge Idaho and Waco Texas.

                    NRA was considered the main driver behind the House Hearings on Waco into the killings of the Branch Davidians at Waco.

                    The Davidians were a racially-mixed group, about 40% non-white.

                    I am an NRA voting member and I am voting for Niger Ennis of CORE for NRA Board of Director.

                    NRA did not take a stand on Philando Castile because he lied about not using marijuana on his pistol permit application and on the 4473 firearms transaction form for purchasing his handgun and YOUR SIDE was prepared to hit PUBLISH on prefab talking points denouncing NRA for support gun carrying by law violators.

            2. Thanks for the bigot’s perspective, mad_kalak. It is always welcome here and by NRA supporters.

          2. I was unaware that the Feds were attempting to extort Castile, snuck onto his property, and killed his child. The idea that Weaver would have been anywhere near as important to the NRA as he is had he merely been unjustly shot on the side of the road is beyond absurd.

          3. Randy Weaver became a ’cause celebre’ because the government’s agents screwed up his arrest, killed his unarmed wife, and then tried, with the help of gun control advocates in Congress and the Media to cover the whole mess up. Weaver was singled out because of his wacky racial/political/ideological beliefs. Does anyone want to defend the government’s overall actions in his case?

          4. Gerry Spence did more than anyone to defend Randy Weaver.
            Hell, the ACLU criticized the Ruby Ridge Standoff and the behavior of the same FBI HRT team led by Big Dick Rogers at Waco.
            Were Spence or ACLU racist for that?

        2. The “Castile was not some angel” is utter B.S. drummed up as part of the cop’s defense. The basic argument was that, because the autopsy showed that Castile had THC in his system, maybe he was slow to respond to the cop’s demands. Which was complete speculation and inconsistent with the video shot in the immediate aftermath (where the cop makes no mention of a slow response).

          Besides, even if Castile was later discovered to be a mass murderer, the cop did not know that at the time of the shooting. People don’t get by with murder just because it turns out that, after the killing, we discover that the person was a bad guy.

          Castile was a beloved worker at a local school. He was legally permitted to carry a gun. By all accounts, he handled the stop EXACTLY as they teach in the conceal and carry classes (e.g., announce to officer you have a gun, wait for instructions, etc.). That the NRA and other conservative groups didn’t support him told me a whole lot about what’s really driving their agenda. And it certainly isn’t protection of gun rights.

          1. He lied about his marijuana use on his state handgun permit application and on his federal 4473 handgun transfer form.
            If NRA defended him, NRA would have been painted as defending gun rights for drug criminals.
            Damned is NRA did, damned of NRA did not.

            The only way the Heller and McDonald gunrights cases were won was that by having squeaky clean defendants.

            1. If you can’t see how thin that excuse is…

            2. I haven’t seen his forms to know that is the case. Either way, it assumes he used marijuana at the time he signed those forms, which I don’t believer was ever established because it was utterly irrelevant to the issues before the court.

              While Heller and McDonald being clean probably helped, not sure why you think their occasional marijuana use would have changed the outcome other that just speculating and guessing.

  6. Prof. Volokh, I have a sense that you’re looking at this issue about whether people simply choose to own a weapon (i.e. 36% whites, 24% blacks “choose” to own a weapon).

    Could it be due to the higher criminal conviction rates and lower income brackets for blacks (both due to discriminatory policies and racist biases BTW), that blacks are not able to obtain more weapons even if they wanted to?

    1. Good, quality handguns are cheap. For $200 one can get a used Glock or Taurus that you can stake your life on. The average American has a cell phone that costs hundreds of dollars, and a flat-screen TV, and a game console, and can afford a quality handgun if they wanted.

  7. Yep, while black folk in the US don’t proportionally own as many guns as white folk, it’s not that far behind.

    The real difference is in support for gun-control laws.

    Simple fact is, it’s not “gun owners” that freak out about “they’re coming for our guns!”

    It’s folks from a specific sub-culture, mostly white, that freaks out about “they’re coming for our guns!”.

    Which is ironic, because historically the actual groups that have had the government try to take their guns are minorities, not the white majority, which is disproportionately represented by the “freak out over gun control” sub-culture.

    1. I also don’t think you understand that historically, it was the norm to deny arms to lots of groups, such as Catholics. And I wouldn’t say whites in America are a sub-culture, even today.

      Further, support for an individual right to keep and bear arms is a majority opinion, about 2/3 of Americans might I add, varying only slightly by polling organization. Depending on how you ask the question and what gun control policies you ask about, that’s where the polling breaks down into blacks, asians, and hispanics being more for gun control than gun rights.

      That said, you are more correct than you think, though, in that to many on the left, being pro-gun is synonymous with bad whiteness.

      1. And I wouldn’t say whites in America are a sub-culture, even today.

        Neither did I. The freak-out is not from all whites, but a sub-culture that is pre

        support for an individual right to keep and bear arms is a majority opinion, about 2/3 of Americans might I add […]

        Sure. And most Americans don’t see a conflict between gun control laws and an individual right to keep and bear arms.

        That said, you are more correct than you think, though, in that to many on the left, being pro-gun is synonymous with bad whiteness.

        Yeah, you’re gonna need a citation for that claim.

        1. Support for an individual right to keep and bear arms comes from 2/3rds of Americans. So, then, I ask you to define “freak out” if you think only some sub-culture of whites support the right to keep and bear arms, when 2/3 of Americans support gun rights. I take “freak out” to mean more than just using their 1st Amendment rights to protect their 2nd Amendment right.

          Yea, and lots of Americans don’t mind some gun control, even pro-gun folks….it just depends on the gun control policy in question, now doesn’t it. Thanks for making my point for me.

          As for making my point for me, you did it again. By saying that only a sub-culture of whites “freak out” about gun control, it’s your way of saying bad whiteness. Think about it for a minute, and let that sink in.

          1. […] if you think only some sub-culture of whites support the right to keep and bear arms […]

            This right here is your road-block.

            I have not said, implied, or insinuated that “only some sub-culture of whites support the right to keep and bear arms”.

            Your entire confusion comes from your inability to grok this one point.

            1. While I must applaud the Heinlein reference, you’re pettifogging when I try to get down to brass tacks, which makes it difficult to grok anything you say. Most notably, what do you mean by “freak out”? What level of support for a constitutional right is acceptable?

              Your first comment said; “It’s folks from a specific sub-culture, mostly white, that freaks out about ‘they’re coming for our guns!’. That implies and infers a whole lot, mostly, that you think that vocal support for gun rights is synonymous with bad whiteness, even if you didn’t consciously think about it that way. Pray tell, let’s hear some more about what you think defines this “specific sub-culture”?

              1. […] you’re pettifogging when I try to get down to brass tacks […]

                Sure. Brass tacks don’t matter if you’re confusing an aircraft carrier with a lighthouse. Until you can figure out which one you’re looking at, nuts and bolts just don’t matter.

                That implies and infers a whole lot, mostly, that you think that vocal support for gun rights is synonymous […]


                Read what I’ve actually written:

                Simple fact is, it’s not “gun owners” that freak out about “they’re coming for our guns!”

                It’s folks from a specific sub-culture, mostly white, that freaks out about “they’re coming for our guns!”.

                And most Americans don’t see a conflict between gun control laws and an individual right to keep and bear arms.

                I have not said, implied, or insinuated that “only some sub-culture of whites support the right to keep and bear arms”.

                It is you, not me, who are trying to conflate “folks that support the 2nd Amendment” with the “freak-out” crowd. I have been very clear, from the beginning, that one is a sub-set of the other.

                As far as making it about “bad whiteness”, nope. I’ve accurately described the situation. Your beef is with reality, not me.

                1. You continue to pettifog. That’s not okay for a productive discussion. So again, if I have trouble with reality, as you put it, then define what is your reality so I can compare it to my reality.

                  What do you mean by “freak out” and what defines this “sub group” of whites that do the freaking? This is the crux of the debate here.

                  Unless you define your terms when there isn’t an already widely understood meaning to the term, don’t be surprised when people don’t agree with you. That you make allusions to “reality” that I seem to be missing are but a crappier form of the argumentum ad populum fallacy.

                  Note, at least I defined my term “at the margins” when you asked. Is it to much to ask for you likewise?

                  1. Let me see…

                    That’s not okay for a productive discussion.

                    You straw-manned me in your first post and double-down, multiple times, on your mis-representation after I explicitly said “yeah, that’s not what I said”.

                    You burned that bridge hours ago dude.

                    […] don’t be surprised when people don’t agree with you.

                    Your concern is noted, but you should be aware of two things:
                    (1) I’m a liberal-leaning gay atheist/agnostic who’s skeptical of conservative jurisprudence, “originalism”, and libertarianism in general. I have no expectations of anyone “agreeing” with me ’round here.
                    (2) You have so fundamentally mis-stated my point that you aren’t even disagreeing with me, you’re disagreeing with a strawman.

                    That you make allusions to […]

                    Please look-up the definition of “allusion”. An allusion is when you reference something without explicitly stating it. I explicitly said your problem is with reality.

                    […] are but a crappier form of the argumentum ad populum fallacy.

                    And look up the definition of argumentum ad populum too, while you’re at it. That fallacy is all about belief. Saying “reality doesn’t care about your thoughts on the matter” is the polar opposite of that.

                    Note, at least I defined my term “at the margins” when you asked.

                    I didn’t “ask”, I politely called your definition “interesting”, while alluding to a harsher word.

                    Is it to much to ask for you likewise?

                    Currently? Yes.

                    1. What a wall of text, and you still, still, cannot define your terms and answer two questions. How can one strawman someone’s position when they don’t define their position upon request? We left to conjecture, then, and if we don’t get it right, then we are guilty of strawmanning. What a Kafka trap.

                      By appealing to “reality” you’re saying that everyone else sees X and Y, but not me. That is textbook argumentum ad populum. Sorry for me to have to explain that to you in a public way.

                      And frankly, I don’t care what your demographics are, I only care about the strength of your arguments, which are quite lacking in this instance.

                    2. How can one strawman someone’s position when they don’t define their position upon request?

                      By making baseless assumptions directly contradicted by the text in their opening response, rather then simply saying “what do you mean by ‘x’?”, as you did.

                      We left to conjecture, then, and if we don’t get it right, then we are guilty of strawmanning.

                      Well, no. If you don’t understand something, you can ask instead of assume. You assumed for how many posts before you asked?

                      By appealing to “reality” you’re saying that everyone else sees X and Y, but not me.

                      The only person I’ve said “sees X and Y” is me. I have made zero claims on what “everyone else” sees.

                      And see? This is what I’m talking about: you’re not responding to anything I’ve actually written, you assumed claims not in evidence, then attacked those.

                      I don’t care what your demographics are […]

                      Cool story. Did you understand my point though? Hint: it’s that I will never be surprised that people here disagree with me.

                      I only care about the strength of your arguments […]

                      You can’t read “your beef is with reality” without assigning arguments to me that I’ve never made, so I’m skeptical at the truth of this statement.

    2. In California they are coming for our guns. Every year new laws are passed by the hoplophobic Democrats in Sacramento. The only group that is safe is law enforcement. The rest of us, white, black brown, straight or LGBT, urban, suburban or rural, are subjected to ever more draaconian laws that make it harder and harder to be a law abiding gun owner.

      And none of those laws has done anything to make us safer in California.

      1. In California they are coming for our guns.

        It is simply remarkable, that after “coming for our guns” for decades, they’re still “coming for our guns”.

        1. Think of it like abortion. The right, generally speaking, wants to end abortion. Yet, they have not done much but restrict it at the margins. The left, generally speaking, wants to disarm Americans, but they haven’t done much but restrict it at the margins. The reason? The other side has prevented the wholesale banning of either through the process of politics. But it’s not for lack of desire in either case.

          1. Yet, they have not done much but restrict it at the margins.

            I can buy a gun in any city of decent size in California (defining “decent size” as 30k+), but there are some Southern states that have one abortion provider for the entire state.

            You have interesting definitions of “at the margins”.

            1. First, don’t compare the actual exercise of the right to keep and bear arms with abortion when it comes to putting that right into practice, it’s comparing apples and oranges, most notably is the demand curve for exercise of that right. The comparison to be made is ONLY that each side wants it gone, but the other side has prevented restrictions on that right, except for regulations at the margins.

              Okay, and by at the margins, I mean that the Courts only have upheld relatively minor restrictions on abortion (safety regs, parental notification, partial birth) and have explicitly rejected major restrictions on abortion like onerous safety regulations, the reduction in the right to abortion is “at the margins.”

              The abortion rate, and the total number of abortions went from about zero to peak at in the 90s at about 1.6 million abortions and a rate of 6 abortions per 1,000 women, declining to some 1.2 million or so, and a rate of 3-4 abortions per 1,000. That’s still a lot of abortions. The decline, though noticeable, is due to a variety of reasons; ideological education by pro-lifers, medical imaging devices that show an unmistakable baby, etc. etc. but seeing as Courts overturn onerous restrictions, again, the change is at the margins.

              1. First, don’t compare […]

                Think of it like […]

                Make up your mind dude.

                1. Yes, I was comparing the MOTIVATIONS of people who want to ban certain things, but not the THINGS THEMSELVES.

                  Please, I assume you can understand the difference, dude. Maybe not.

                  1. I understand just fine.

                    You wanted me to compare/contrast abortion/gun control in-so-far as it supported your rhetoric. Any part of it that didn’t comply with your rhetoric (such as the actions not matching the motivations you assigned to people) was to be ignored.

                    That said, look at your “think about […]” post again. The entire middle (where you fallaciously claimed equivalent incompetence) was about “the THINGS THEMSELVES”. So no, you did not restrict yourself to talking about “motivations”.

                    1. No, I don’t think you understood the difference between motivations and the actions/things themselves, else you wouldn’t have made such a snarky comment. And a comment that you think was a good one-up dunk too, but which in fact, exposed your ignorance.

                      But you’re writing that you do now. That’s okay.

                      Anyway, it’s been whatever. I grant you the last word. Have fun.

                    2. I’m insulted that you think there’s a situation where I wouldn’t be snarky.

        2. Yes. They are coming for our guns. I didn’t say they were taking them all at once. But every year they post more egregious laws attacking gun owners, making it harder to buy guns and ammunition, limiting what guns can be bought or trnsferred, making it easier to violate our 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th amendment rights by allowing ex parte judicial rulings to force us to surrender our guns.

          I’m sure if these restrictions were placed on voting or abortions you would be perfectly okay with that, right? and antone who said they were coming after voting or abortion rights would be a crackpot.

          1. The gun control advocates answer to violent crime with guns is not to target violent people, but to redefine once legal guns as illegal and thereby making their owners gun criminals if they don’t surrender them.

  8. Though Pew surveys are well regarded, doesn’t gun ownership pose well-nigh insuperable obstacles to accurate results? One factor that might skew results is the high rate of felony convictions in Black-headed households (UGeorgia, 2010: “People with felony convictions more broadly account for 8 percent of the overall population and 33 percent of the African-American male population.”) Since felons cannot legally own guns, surely those that do are unlikely to admit as much on a survey?

    1. You are correct. People don’t answer pollsters accurately about lots of things (voting for Trump, for example) and guns are right up there.

      The “do you have a gun in the household” question had variable results between the General Social Survey (GSS) and Gallup and PEW because of this, in that people are more likely to answer a question from the more well known Gallup then the niche GSS.

      This could easily explain a small swing, and the GSS has tried to make a correction for this. Its estimates, after correction, are a 35% household gun ownership rate rather than 31%, which is what you get without the correction. This is closer to the Gallup/PEW results, which has a “gun in the household” rate of in the 40%s.

      How many people decline to say they have a gun in the home to any polling organization, else they will have to have a tragic boating accident, is unknown. I bet it’s at least 10% of respondents.

      1. mad_kalak said: “How many people decline to say they have a gun in the home to any polling organization…”

        I believe more broadly, the issue is more about who chooses to respond to surveys. For example most die hard trump supporters I know will hang up on any polling company that calls, and that is if they even answer the phone. I believe the same is often true of a significant portion of gun owners.

        There is no such thing of a truly random poll, all poll respondents self select based on their own biases.

      2. I read an admission by Gallup that when gun control is not a hot political topic, they got 50+% of households admitting to owning guns, but when gun control is a hot political topic, they got 30% – 35% of households.

  9. Given the racist origins of most gun control proposals, Black Americans have great incentive not to reveal gun ownership status to random phone surveys.

    Congress of Racial Equality Amicus in DC v Heller 2008

    A little history of racist gun control in America.

Please to post comments