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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Gun Ownership

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This question on how religious beliefs shape attitudes about guns has received little attention in the literature. We use the religious concept of supernatural evil, or beliefs about Satan, Hell, Armageddon, and demons, to provide context for ideas about gun ownership and the development of attitudes toward gun policy. While this has been explored quantitatively using national survey data, we argue that an in-depth qualitative approach provides necessary nuance. As part of an ongoing ethnography in Northeastern Kansas, we conducted interviews with 55 women and 7 men who own and shoot guns. For this paper, we report on a religion module subsample that probes religiosity, spirituality, and gun ownership. Based on the rich contextual information from the interviews, we illuminate a package of beliefs that come together as an ethic, a set of moral principles guiding gun ownership for a subset of gun owners. We suggest the spirit of gun ownership is a bundle of duties that guide individual gun owners to stress the need to protect, be diligent, and defend. Moreover, belief in supernatural evil is bound up in policy attitudes that protect or expand gun rights.




Vegter, A., & Kelley, M. (2020). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Gun Ownership. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 59(3), 526–540.

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