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Caught in the Crossfire: A Defense of the Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions

23 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2012 Last revised: 16 Apr 2013

Donald Braman

George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

Dan M. M. Kahan

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: 2003


In this article, Dan Kahan and Donald Braman expand upon the cultural theory of gun-risk perception and respond to the commentaries on their previous article, More Statistics, Less Persuasion: A Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions, 151 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1291 (2003). Their critics argue that the authors are too quick to dismiss the power of empirical information to influence individuals’ positions on gun control. But in analyzing the variety of their critics’ arguments, Kahan and Braman note the strange pattern of opinions that has emerged on the relative importance of culture and data in the gun debate. What could explain the puzzling congruence of opinion among staunch procontrollers and anticontrolles, all of whom concluded that data mattered most? What commonality could explain the agreement of a Texas law professor and a British social anthropologist that culture is in fact more important? Committed to furnishing empirical proof of the powerlessness of empirical proofs, Kahan and Braman constructed a regression analysis to answer these questions. They conclude in this article that this final study conclusively proves their assertion that statistics are incapable of persuading anyone to accept anything they don’t already believe; or, in other words, that the cultural basis of gun-risk perceptions better explains public perceptions in the gun control debate than a pure empirical information theory.

Keywords: culture, gun control, gun debate, risk perception, cultural risk perception, regression model, risk-information, empirical, irrational-weigher, rational-weighter, cultural-evaluator model, cognitive biases, cultural theory, risk perception

JEL Classification: C25, C35, C52, D1, D71, I1, J18, K1, K32, K39, Z1

Suggested Citation

Braman, Donald mname and Kahan, Dan M. mname, Caught in the Crossfire: A Defense of the Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions (2003). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 151, 2003; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-59; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-59; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper. Available at SSRN:

Donald Braman (Contact Author)

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)


Dan M. Kahan

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States


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