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Study: Those who avoided COVID-19 precautions early in the pandemic are more likely to buy guns

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People who avoid COVID-19 precautions to prevent illness are more likely to buy guns — a behavior most common among moderate and conservative individuals, according to research by Rutgers.

The researchers interviewed a sample of 6,404 adults from three states: Minnesota, Mississippi and New Jersey. The survey was conducted in early 2021, before COVID-19 vaccines became widespread, and participants were asked about their intention to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, how often they wear masks in public, how often they get a flu shot, how they characterize their political beliefs and who they voted for in the 2020 presidential election.

The researchers then used a statistical method called latent class analysis to see if these behaviors and intentions cluster in such a way as to create distinct groups and if these groups differ in their gun buying behaviors.

Their study appears in Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

The researchers considered each of these behaviors to be defensive behaviors aimed at protecting individuals and their communities from disease or physical attack.

The analysis indicated that there were four groups based on these defensive behaviors and political beliefs. The first group, marked by liberal political views, adopted many defensive behaviors to avoid the disease and more than 98% voted for Joe Biden. The second group, marked by moderate political opinions, adopted very few defensive behaviors to avoid the disease and more than 73% voted for Joe Biden.

The third group, marked by conservative political beliefs, adopted very few defensive behaviors to avoid the disease and more than 90% voted for Donald Trump. In the fourth group, also marked by conservative political beliefs, individuals adopted many defensive behaviors to avoid the disease and more than 73% voted for Donald Trump.

Groups that engaged in few disease avoidance behaviors were more likely to have purchased firearms since March 2020, when an increase in gun sales took hold nationwide. These same groups have also less believed that scientists act in the best interest of the public.

“These findings highlight that different communities view and respond to risk differently and trust different sources to provide them with information on how to manage that risk,” said Michael Anestis, executive director of New Jersey Gun Violence. Research Center at Rutgers, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

“Some people saw very little risk of disease even early in the pandemic, and generally avoided precautions like mask-wearing and vaccines that might have protected them and their communities.”

These same communities, however, seemed to fear being harmed by other people and, therefore, engaged in a behavior they saw as able to protect them in this area: the purchase of firearms, Anestis said. .

“Given their low level of confidence in scientists’ intentions, this skewed perception of risk could be partly driven by a tendency to receive information from sources that are not informed by data,” he said. .

The authors noted that while these individuals were less likely to have purchased guns since 2020, groups marked by many defensive behaviors to avoid disease had a higher percentage of members who became gun owners. fire for the first time since March 2020.

“It may be that the chaos of 2020 and 2021 has caused some people who otherwise wouldn’t have become gun owners to see risk differently and buy a gun for the first time,” Anestis said. . “We need to be aware of the changing demographics of gun ownership because the risk may be different in these communities.”

The authors said that the two conservative groups were remarkable in another way: the conservative group that endorsed adopting more defensive behaviors to avoid disease endorsed more conservative beliefs than the conservative group that engaged in fewer behaviors defensive to avoid illness, but they were significantly less likely to have voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

More information:
Michael D. Anestis et al, Defensive Behaviors During COVID-19 and the 2020-2021 Gun Purchase Surge: A Latent Class Analysis, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (2023). DOI: 10.1521/jscp.2023.42.2.160

Journal information:
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

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