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More Statistics, Less Persuasion: A Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions


Donald Braman


George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

Dan M. Kahan


Yale University - Law School; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics


University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 151, 2003
Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 05

Abstract:     
What motivates individuals to support or oppose the legal regulation of guns? What sorts of evidence or arguments are likely to promote a resolution of the gun control debate? Using the survey methods associated with the cultural theory of risk, we demonstrate that individuals' positions on gun control derive from their cultural world views: individuals of an egalitarian or solidaristic orientation tend to support gun control, those of a hierarchical or individualist orientation to oppose it. Indeed, cultural orientations so defined are stronger predictors of individuals' positions than is any other fact about them, including whether they are male or female, white or black, Southerners or Easterners, urbanites or country dwellers, conservatives or liberals. The role of culture in determining attitudes towards guns suggests that econometric analyses of the effect of gun control on violent crime are unlikely to have much impact. As they do when they are evaluating empirical evidence of environmental and other types of risks, individuals can be expected to credit or dismiss empirical evidence on "gun control risks" depending on whether it coheres or conflicts with their cultural values. Rather than focus on quantifying the impact of gun control laws on crime, then, academics and others who want to contribute to resolving the gun debate should dedicate themselves to constructing a new expressive idiom that will allow citizens to debate the cultural issues that divide them in an open and constructive way.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

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Date posted: October 5, 2001 ; Last revised: April 16, 2013

Suggested Citation

Braman, Donald and Kahan, Dan M., More Statistics, Less Persuasion: A Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 151, 2003; Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 05. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=286205 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.286205

Contact Information

Donald Braman
George Washington University - Law School ( email )
2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
Cultural Cognition Project ( email )
2000 H St NW
2000 H Street
Washington, DC 20052 20052
United States
202-491-8843 (Phone)
202 491-8843 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/braman
Dan M. Kahan (Contact Author)
Yale University - Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan
Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )
124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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