23 J. on Firearms & Pub. Pol'y 114 (2011)
The Gun as Symbol of Evil: Exaggerated Perceptions of Firearms Violence as a Media Artifact

handle is hein.journals/jfpp23 and id is 112 raw text is: THE GUN AS SYMBOL OF EVIL:
Research on firearms violence, aggression caused by firearms, attitudes on
firearms or gun control has often been conducted without taking into account
experimental subjects or survey respondents' prior knowledge of firearms,
firearms violence, and the source(s) of this knowledge. This paper reports results
obtained from survey research of three groups of respondents selected for their
distinct demographics, their varying levels of familiarity and experience with
firearms, and their media use habits. Respondents were (1) undergraduate colle ge
students; (2) senior citiZens; and (3) adult members of NRA-affiliated target
shooting clubs. The study focuses primarily on the relationship between media-
acquired knowledge and subjects' perceptions of firearm crime and violence.
Findings suggest that respondents who rely predominantly on mass media
accounts for knowledge-as opposed to formal training, in-family socialiZation
or other non-mediated sources-consistently and grossly overestimatedfrequencies
of types of violent gun crimes against police officers (using FBI statistics as a
baseline). Media-reliant subjects also tended to hold highly inaccurate perceptions
of the availability of illegal firearms, and of legal restrictions regarding use
and purchase. These findings point toward the influence of mass media in
conditioning subject perceptions: groups and subjects reying primarily on media
representations were prone to exaggeratedperceptual distortions. Finding suggest
also that much extant public opinion data on firearms and gun control issues
may be of very low quality because of the fantastic misperceptions of media-
reliant respondents.


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