Thursday, April 30, 2020

Does gun possession signal that a white man is a criminal? How about a black man?

Many people who saw armed white citizens in the Michigan Statehouse recently assumed they were violent-prone, and that armed black men would not be given the freedom to act that way. (I remember seeing armed black men unmolested at conservative rallies.) 

The General Social Survey asked participants if they own a handgun and also if they have ever been arrested (male sample size = 5,194). The percent of male handgun owners with at least one arrest is as follows:

Percent of men with a handgun who have ever been arrested
Whites  18.4
Blacks  28.3
Other race  26.7

Let's keep things simple and call arrestees criminals.  The conclusion we can draw here is that if all we know about a man is that he has a gun, our best bet is that he is NOT a criminal. Second, a black man with a handgun is 1.5 times more likely to be a criminal than a white man, and the increased risk for a man of another race is 1.45. 

Research indicates that black males are more reluctant than white males to admit to ever having been arrested, so the actual racial gap might be even bigger. Studies of large cities like DC or Philadelphia have found that roughly 50% of black men have ever been arrested.

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