Do opinions about gun policies vary by race and ethnicity?

December 13, 2023

In early 2021, Associate Professor Cassandra Crifasi, set out to explore if and how opinions on gun policies vary by race and ethnicity. In collaboration with the Community Justice Action Fund, Crifasi and her team conducted a national survey that included an oversample of Black and Hispanic respondents. This oversample allowed the team to better examine differences across racial/ethnic subgroups and further divide their analysis by separating gun owners and non-gun owners. In each survey they asked respondents about their perceptions of safety, support for community-based gun violence prevention strategies, and whether respondents believe certain gun policies are fair to all races.  

The study, supported by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, found that attitudes varied significantly by race and by gun ownership. The researchers found that Black respondents did not support prohibiting the sale of a gun before a background check is complete as much as their white counterparts. Additionally, twice as many Black respondents agreed that purchaser licensing laws were unfair to Blacks and other racial minorities and that officer discretion in issuing concealed carry licenses was unfair to Blacks and other racial minorities. 

The researchers also examined sentiment regarding police. They found that Black respondents had significantly higher support for pairing officers with trained mental health professionals, diverting individuals with mental health symptoms into care rather than arresting them, and redirecting police funding to social services for those at risk of gun violence. The levels of support for these policing policies were even higher among Black gun owners compared to Black respondents overall.  

Regarding gun owners specifically, the researchers found that Black gun owners had significantly higher support for funding community-based violence prevention programs when compared to white gun owners. Notably, Black and Hispanic gun owners were significantly less likely than whites to agree that personally owning a gun makes them safer. 

These key findings were published in Preventive Medicine in August 2022 and in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics in May 2023.  The team also presented these findings at the 2021 annual APHA conference.   

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