Are gun owners bitter? Not according to The Wall St. Journal:
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That anybody would find this portrayal realistic illustrates how little some Americans know about their neighbors. And nothing reveals the truth better than the data on guns.
Who are all these gun owners? Are they the uneducated poor, left behind? It turns out they have the same level of formal education as nongun owners, on average. Furthermore, they earn 32% more per year than nonowners. Americans with guns are neither a small nor downtrodden group.
Nor are they “bitter.” In 2006, 36% of gun owners said they were “very happy,” while 9% were “not too happy.” Meanwhile, only 30% of people without guns were very happy, and 16% were not too happy.
In 1996, gun owners spent about 15% less of their time than nonowners feeling “outraged at something somebody had done.” It’s easy enough in certain precincts to caricature armed Americans as an angry and miserable fringe group. But it just isn’t true. The data say that the people in the approximately 40 million American households with guns are generally happier than those people in households that don’t have guns.
The gun-owning happiness gap exists on both sides of the political aisle. Gun-owning Republicans are more likely than nonowning Republicans to be very happy (46% to 37%). Democrats with guns are slightly likelier than Democrats without guns to be very happy as well (32% to 29%). Similarly, holding income constant, one still finds that gun owners are happiest.
Why are gun owners so happy? One plausible reason is a sense of self-reliance, in terms of self-defense or even in terms of the ability to hunt their own dinner.
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A bit of evidence that self-reliance is at work among gun owners comes from the General Social Survey. It asked whether one agrees with the statement, “Those in need have to take care of themselves.” In 2004, gun owners were 10 percentage points more likely than nonowners to agree (60% to 50%).
That response is not evidence that gun owners only care about themselves, however. In 2002, they were more likely to give money to charity than people without guns (83% to 75%). This charity gap doesn’t reflect their somewhat higher incomes. Gun owners were also more likely to give in other ways, such as donating blood. Are gun owners unsentimental? In 2004, they were more likely than those without guns to strongly agree that they would “endure all things” for the one they loved (45% to 37%).
Coming up next on the Water Is Wet Network, people who believe in God are happy, healthy and well-adjusted!