“Gun Culture” and the
Demand for Firearms
This chapter examines the legal ownership of firearms, the marketing of firearms, and the role of gender and culture in shaping demand. There is little doubt that there are huge differences among nations in terms of the rate and purposes of firearm ownership as well as attitudes to firearms. Firearm ownership rates range from less than 1 percent of households in countries such as England, Wales, Germany and Japan to more than 40 percent in countries such as the United States and Yemen. The purposes for owning firearms vary considerably—some countries such as Canada, Austria and the United States have extensive recreational hunting. Others such as Kenya use firearms to protect herds from predators. Many permit sporting uses of firearms for target shooting and collecting. Relatively few allow civilians to carry firearms for personal protection. In many contexts firearms are possessed, legally or illegally, as a means of promoting a sense of security in the face of crime or political instability.
In many countries, gun manufacturers and sellers work closely with firearm user groups to promote and preserve firearm ownership and to build markets. The activities of the gun lobby nationally and internationally are evident in the resistance to stronger regulation, which would increase effective costs to both buyers and sellers and which would erode markets.
Regardless of the differences among cultures, one factor is constant: Firearm possession is a predominantly male activity, whether for lawful employment or for recreation. Worldwide, the vast majority of those in possession of legal and illegal firearms are men and boys. There is strong evidence that the link between masculinity and firearms permeates many cultures—both industrialized and developing. A range of cultural carriers, from traditional practices through electronic media, reinforces these links and promotes demand. Firearm sellers exploit many of these beliefs and values in their efforts to sell more guns.