The spooky truth about gun nuts and supernatural belief

Ghosts and guns, a match made in heaven.

Graffiti of a little devil holding a machine gun in Athens, Greece, March 7, 2017. (Photo by Giorgos...
NurPhoto/NurPhoto/Getty Images

In the pantheon of “great tweets” I have rattling around my deeply internet-infected brain, one of my all time favorites is this 2018 scorcher from Dustin Couch:

Why is the moon haunted? Why are astronauts able to hop in and out of their rockets like it’s mom’s minivan? What good will guns do against lunar ghosts?

I mention this because, as it turns out, the correlation between guns and ghosts appears to be stronger than you might think. According to a newly released study published in Social Science Research, there is a strong correlation between American gun policy and otherworldly malice.

In “Peace through superior firepower: Belief in supernatural evil and attitudes toward gun policy in the United States,” researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Kansas, as well as from Baylor University and Florida State University, concluded that “belief in supernatural evil is a robust predictor of support for policies that expand gun rights.”

In other words, people who believe in overtly religious conceptualizations of supernatural evil (the study’s authors specifically cite the Christian interpretations of Satan, hell, and demons) are also more likely to support fewer restrictions on when, how, and what sort of guns they can carry. And when you think about it, that makes a degree of sense beyond the broader trends of conservative religiosity. If, as the study’s authors found, a person sees the world in terms of an absolute binary between good and evil beyond human experience, it is understandable that they would be more accepting of the proliferation of lethal tools that have increasingly been framed in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys.”

Or, as the study itself puts it:

Why might persons who believe strongly in supernatural evil tend to favor having more weapons in the hands of larger numbers of Americans, especially civilians? Briefly, the conviction that there is a cosmic battle between ultimate good and ultimate evil being waged on earth as well as in the spiritual realm may make the world seem uncertain, risky, and even threatening. Individuals may display their propensity for evil at any moment in daily life, and pure evil is unlikely to be restrained by conscience, customs, or formal or informal social controls.

All of which is to say that believing in the devil, and hell, and demons interfering in the natural world doesn’t necessarily mean a person is packing heat, themselves. But it does mean there’s a good chance they’re probably fine with those who are.