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Culture Affects our Beliefs about Firearms, But Data are Also Important

  • David B. Mustard

    (Universtiy of Georgia)

Dan Kahan and Donald Braman’s provocative analysis contends that because people’s beliefs about firearms are primarily formed by cultural values, empirical data are unlikely to have much effect on the gun debate. Their proposed solution to this quandary is that scholars who want to help resolve the gun controversy should identify precisely the cultural visions that generate this dispute and formulate appropriate strategies for enabling those visions to be reconciled in law. In response to Kahan and Braman’s challenge to empirical research, I argue that while culture influences beliefs, it is but one of several such factors. Alongside culture (and presumably other factors as well), empirical evidence has a powerful influence on beliefs about gun control. In the first Part of this Commentary I discuss how cultural beliefs can significantly affect individuals’ beliefs about firearms and discuss strategies for helping people overcome their cultural biases to more honestly evaluate empirical evidence. The second Part provides examples of how data have played an important role in affecting individuals’ beliefs about firearms. I conclude by urging renewed attention to empirical research to inform the gun control debate.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Law and Economics with number 0509002.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: 14 Sep 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwple:0509002
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 18. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 2003, vol. 151: 1387-1394.
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