Rifles, Region, and Race: An Analysis of Gun Purchases and Campus Carry Laws

Authors: Kristina LaPlant Georgia State University, and James LaPlant Valdosta State University


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Prepared for Presentation at the Citadel Symposium on Southern Politics Charleston, South Carolina, March 3-4, 2016


This study revisits the southern subculture of violence thesis by examining gun sales during the Obama presidency as well as concealed carry of firearms on college campuses.  We find that gun sales (measured through federal background checks) have increased dramatically from 2007 through 2016, especially in the South.  Spikes in gun sales relate to the holidays, the elections and policy announcements of Obama, and mass shootings with the spikes especially punctuated in the South.

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The second stage of our analysis examines the types of concealed carry laws across the states through an ordered probit analysis.  We investigate the influence of internal (intrastate) factors as well as external (interstate) determinants.  State population is negatively associated with the adoption of campus concealed carry, but the other internal determinants of state affluence, ideology, legislative professionalism, and minority population are not significant predictors.  In relation to problem environment, high gun murder rates are associated with the prohibition of campus carry while low rates are associated with the adoption of such laws.  “Gun culture” (measured as the number of gun-related interest groups and the number of gun purchases in a state) is a powerful predictor of the types of campus carry laws across the states.  For external determinants, we find limited evidence of regional policy learning.  Following the design of Butz et al. (2015) this study also finds that the interaction effect of percentage minority population and a dummy variable for the South is positively associated with the adoption of campus concealed carry, which points to the impact of racial threat on public policy.


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