Good Guns, Bad Guns, Gender and DGUs

Glenn E. Meyer, Trinity University
Claire M. Lakin, Trinity University

Assault rifle appearance may have psychological import in legal proceedings, keying aggressive ideations leading to harsher sentencing. These effects may vary by gender. We presented simulated jurors with defensive gun uses: home burglary, vandalism and a Halloween prank. A defendant has shot someone, the firearm used varies and self-defense is claimed. In all studies, an assault rifle (AR-15) was compared to other firearms. In the third study, subjects saw a videotape of the trial and guns being fired. In the first study (home burglary), subjects were more likely to convict a homeowner who used an AR-15. Women were punished more harshly than men if they used the assault rifle. The second and third study, vandalism and Halloween prank, found no gun type effect. Sentences were higher and ceiling effects may have washed out a gun effect. The increased salience of the firearm in the Halloween Prank scenario (due to the video) did not overcome the general ceiling effect. The results are congruent with social cognitive theories of attribution. Women may be sentenced more harshly in the more ambiguous home defense DGU because use of an assault rifle violates gender stereotype. Violators seem more culpable and blame is transferred to them.

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Updated 05/20/2006