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A Matter of Degree? Fear, Anxiety, and Protective Gun Ownership in the United States


Social Science Quarterly

Published online on


--- - |2+ Objectives This study examines the effect of crime‐specific fears (worry about crime and perceived risk of crime), violent victimization, and diffuse anxieties (belief in a dangerous world [BDW], general distrust, and belief in others’ violent intentions) on protective gun ownership and involvement in “active” gun behaviors (i.e., gun accessibility in the home and handgun carrying). Methods We use data on over 4,000 U.S. adults from the 2017 nationally representative Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel. Results Fear of crime and perceived risks are largely unrelated to gun ownership, yet violent victimization influences protective ownership, which in turn influences gun accessibility. Additionally, diffuse fears and anxieties also matter for protective ownership and accessibility, with some effects explained by political party affiliation. Broader, general distrust of others is associated with owners’ frequency of carrying their handgun outside of the home. Conclusion The results highlight the complexity of the fear‐guns link, with multiple dimensions of fear and experience at work. - 'Social Science Quarterly, EarlyView. '