Gun owners becoming more politically active in US: Study

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New York : Buyoed by an absence of a tighter gun control policy despite increased mass shootings, more and more gun owners in the US are joining the political process, not only in voting but in donating money to candidates and contacting elected officials, researchers have revealed.

According to a study by University of Kansas political scientists, gun owners have increasingly become more politically active.

Conservatives seem to have done a better deal at realising this trend and seeking to politically mobilise gun owners in campaign ads and other actions.

"Part of the reason majority opinions on gun control legislation aren't turning into policy is that gun owners are a very strong political group who hold a lot of weight and hold a lot of influence despite being a minority in American politics," said Abbie Vegter, a graduate student in political science.

Vegter collaborated on the research with political science professors Don Haider-Markel and Mark Joslyn. The team presented their findings as part of the American Political Science Association's annual meeting in Boston on Sunday.

In the study, the researchers examined the political behaviour of gun owners versus non-gun owners in presidential election years from 1972 to 2012.

"Our major conclusion establishes gun owners as a distinct social group, and we see how that social group influences their likelihood of participating in politics," Vegter said.

The researchers are still exploring what has driven this shift in attitude among gun owners, whether it was in response to past gun control legislation at the state level or a reaction to certain candidates who were elected who had stronger views about gun control.

"There are a couple of lessons. For individuals, especially individual gun control advocates, in order to make a difference, you need to match this level of mobilisation and participation," Vegter said.

"There is also a lesson there for politicians who I think traditionally have not seen gun owners as a political group to be addressed," she added.

The findings could be key in determining why major gun control legislation in Congress has remained elusive, even after mass shootings such as Newtown in 2012 and others, even when a majority of people tend to support stricter gun laws.