A scientific initiative to assess fundamental questions about guns
What are the motivational bases of gun ownership? Most gun owners report that they own their guns for self-defense, and this tendency has increased considerably in recent years, despite homicide rates remaining at a stable low. We developed and tested a theory of defensive gun ownership to understand the threats that drive this need (Stroebe, Leander & Kruglanski, 2017). We are presently investigating how trust in the police, exposure to news media, mass shootings, and terrorism further affect the sense of threat that drives defensive gun ownership.
What can guns teach us about psychology in general? Weapons are an ancient part of human evolutionary history, yet it remains unclear how people use guns as modern-day means or tools to resolve social psychological challenges. Our current projects focus on how guns can offer insight into frustration, threat, and basic psychological needs. Guns could certainly represent means to engage in displaced aggression and violence—but beyond that, guns could also be means of personal empowerment, possibly even facilitating ideas about heroism and prosocial action.
Gun ownership and use can have deep historical, cultural, and practical significance. However, people hold vastly different views on the role of guns in a free society: they can be regarded as symbols of survival, protection, and freedom—but also terrible atrocities, abuse, and tragedy. Each society differs in its disposition towards guns among the civilian population, particularly with regards to social norms and government regulations. We investigate how societal and cultural issues, as well as group dynamics, drive individual assessments of the value and usefulness of guns.