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Implied threat or part of the scenery: Americans’ perceptions of open carry


Existing empirical studies of American perceptions of open gun carrying are limited to polls that often omit key background characteristics of respondents. The present study examined American perceptions of open carry by studying perceptions of safety across locations such as home, work, and shopping areas and by level of familiarity with the individual engaging in open carry. Data were drawn from a 45-question, nationwide online survey conducted in 2016. Respondents included more than 250 household gun owners and 250 non-owners. The data were analyzed using ordinal logistic regression models. Overall, results showed that respondents felt uncomfortable in a situation involving open carry, and even less comfortable when the person engaging in open carry was a stranger. Gun owners, whites, and those with higher levels of education all expressed greater feelings of perceived safety. Respondents also reported that concern over mental state was a key factor in their perceived safety. Explanations for these findings, practical implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Open carry, fear, guns


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