In the wake of Tuesday’s tragic elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, researchers are reexamining the relationship between religion and guns.
Ryan Burge, political scientist and assistant professor at Eastern Illinois University, tweeted a graph Friday showing the share of various religious communities that “personally own a firearm.” He produced the chart using data from the 2020 Cooperative Election Study.
Burge’s chart showed that white evangelical Protestants, mainstream Protestants, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints own guns more often than other believers.
A third of white evangelicals and about a quarter of Protestants and Latter-day Saints personally own a gun, compared to 17% of atheists, 17% of non-white evangelicals, 11% of Jews and 9% of Muslims, Burge found. .
As Burge pointed out in his tweet, gun ownership is far from common among major religious groups. Even among white evangelicals, two-thirds do not own a gun.
Religious leaders have sometimes encouraged the personal possession of firearms as a means of enhancing security in places of worship. In 2020, LifeWay Search found that almost half of Protestant pastors (45%) said that “their security measures include the presence of armed church members”.
“Combining this with the percentages who say they have uniformed police or armed security personnel on site, 51% intentionally have firearms when worshiping as part of their security measures,” the report said.
Places of worship across the country have been the target of armed violence on several occasions in recent years.
Earlier this month, a lone gunman attacked Irvine Taiwan Presbyterian Church in Laguna Hills, California, killing one man and injuring five people. Law enforcement officials said the shooter was motivated by prejudice against the Taiwanese community.