The belief that guns deter crime and support for capital punishment

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Law and Justice

Publication Date



One of the many reasons for gun ownership in the USA is the belief that citizen gun ownership helps to reduce crime. The rationale for this belief can be linked to deterrence – the perception that the threat of harm from confronting someone with a gun outweighs the potential benefit from crime – and will reduce the likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior. Similarly, deterrence is often referenced as a reason to support capital punishment. This is the first study to explicitly link support for the individual threat of lethal violence and the state threat of lethal violence by testing the hypothesis that the belief that guns reduce crime is positively correlated with support for capital punishment. Tests using a 2010 survey support this hypothesis for general support of capital punishment and for support of capital punishment with the life without parole option. The theoretical implications of considering deterrence as a value-expressive argument are explored.


This article was originally published in Criminal Justice Studies. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Criminal Justice Studies


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