When an Irresistible Prejudice Meets Immovable Politics: Black Legal Gun Ownership Undermines Racially Resentful White Americans’ Gun Rights Advocacy

Historical evidence suggests that White Americans’ support for gun rights (i.e., opposition to gun control) is challenged by Black Americans exercising their legal rights to guns (e.g., The Black Panther Party and the Mulford Act of 1967). Here, we examined two empirical questions. First, we tested whether White Americans implicitly racialize gun rights as “White.” In a preregistered study employing a novel IAT, racially resentful White Americans indirectly associated gun rights with White (and not Black) people. Moreover, this association was not primarily based in partisanship. Racial resentment overwhelmed the effect of party identification in explaining this association (Study 1). Given racial resentment typically predicts stronger support for gun rights (Filindra & Kaplan, 2015; O’Brien et al., 2013), we next examined whether Black legal gun ownership undermines gun rights support among racially resentful White Americans across two studies (total N = 773), including a nationally representative sample of White partisans. In both studies, racially resentful White Americans expressed less support for a gun right (i.e., concealed-carry) when informed that Black (vs. White) Americans showed greater utilization of the gun right (Studies 2 and 3). Study 3 provided initial evidence suggesting that the observed reduced support is more closely linked to concerns about identity than security. Overall, these results support that Black legal gun ownership can reduce opposition to gun control among gun rights’ most entrenched advocates.