Close Range: Adolescent Predictors of Adult Firearms Ownership in the United States

By Cretacci, Michael A.; Hendrix, Nicole | International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, July-December 2017 | Go to article overview

Close Range: Adolescent Predictors of Adult Firearms Ownership in the United States


Cretacci, Michael A., Hendrix, Nicole, International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences


Introduction

This investigation addresses the adolescent predictors of adult firearms ownership in the United States. In addition, we also document the process many previous studies have examined regarding gun ownership and theoretically expand upon those inquiries. Though not a new area of inquiry, this study is also relevant because it makes a number of important contributions to this body of literature. First, we present the notion that gun ownership in the U.S. is somewhat dependent upon the transmission of interests and involvement in firearms issues and activities from one generation to the next. This participation in the gun culture may result in the passing of gun ownership from one generation to the next. Second, we utilized data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a nationwide sample of American high school students and their families. This particular contribution allows us to draw conclusions about the predictors of adult firearms ownership that apply to American society at large. Third, the study reviews the research on the predictors of adult gun ownership and because this area of inquiry is underdeveloped and dated, it serves as a call for renewed investigation. This is especially the case since a number of comprehensive data sets now exist that can be exploited to address the predictors of gun ownership. Finally, we believe this study to be a timely piece of research given the recent occurrences of mass gun violence in various locations in the United States and throughout the world. Within that context, gun violence can be understood more broadly by social science as a whole, if we can explain why individuals choose to own firearms in the first place.

Utilizing three-waves of longitudinal data obtained from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), we test a model that exploits the effect of having firearms in the home as an adolescent to predict the likelihood of owning firearms as an adult. Measures included here such as race, gender, age, rural residence, and the presence of an adult male in the household, are those that have been used previously in gun ownership research. We hypothesize that these experiences may increase the exposure of individuals to firearms at earlier ages and therefore, their perception of firearms as adults may be more positive. As a result, these types of individuals will be more likely to own firearms as adults (Bordua & Lizotte 1979; Cao, Cullen, & Link, 1997; Dixon & Lizotte, 1987; DuRant et al., 2007; Kleck 1997; Lizotte & Bordua, 1980; Lizotte, Bordua, & White, 1981; Smith & Uchida, 1988).

Literature Review

Î. Culture and Transmission of Adult Firearms Ownership in the United States

As individuals in other countries relinquish their guns, Americans grasp them tightly. As policy makers respond to tragic events, perhaps understanding the culture of gun ownership will help to explain the occurrence of those same events, perhaps without reducing access to firearms for law abiding adults. The United States ranks first among civilian ownership with 88.8 firearms per 100,000 citizens (Small Arms Survey, 2007). In recent years, reports of reductions in gun ownership (Klein, 2012; Lauter, 2012) nationwide have circulated in contrast to indicators that gun sales have skyrocketed (Holmes, 2013; Matheny, 2013). The General Social Survey (2010) found that about onethird of Americans had a gun in their homes. For the following year, the 2011 Gallup Poll (2012) found that 43 percent of Americans indicated gun ownership. These seemingly confusing and conflicting findings result from the challenging nature of studying gun ownership. While the ideas presented here are not new, their articulation in a theoretically complete manner is needed. Researchers often ask individuals about their personal firearms ownership patterns and then also identify the likelihood that households contain firearms. …

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