Dispositional characteristics in firearm ownership and purchasing behavior during the 2020 purchasing surge

Joye C. Anestis, Michael D. Anestis, Olivia C. Preston, Taylor R. Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: In 2020 the U.S. saw a firearm purchasing surge that was synchronous with the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic and notable community unrest. Extant literature has highlighted a potential cohort effect among 2020 firearm purchasers and the importance of characterizing these individuals to inform policy and interventions. Dispositional traits have received minimal attention in the firearm literature overall, despite research that indicates dispositional traits impact intervention interest, access, and effectiveness. Objective: The current study examined two dispositional traits indicated as important in firearm research – threat sensitivity (THT) and disinhibition (DIS). We hypothesized that 1) firearm owners overall would have lower THT and higher DIS relative to non-firearm owners, 2) mean levels of DIS (but not THT) would be higher among firearm owners who purchased during the 2020 purchasing surge relative to firearm owners who did not and non-firearm owners, and 3) DIS (but not THT) would be related to future plans for purchasing such that mean levels of DIS would be highest amongst those who have plans. Methods: This study used an online-recruited sample (N = 3500) matched to 2010 US Census data. Results: Firearm owners demonstrated lower THT and higher DIS than non-firearm owners. 2020 firearm purchasers had higher DIS compared to non-firearm owners and non-purchasing firearm owners, while firearm owners who did not purchase had lower THT compared to non-owners and 2020 purchasers. Plans to purchase in the next 12 months was associated with higher DIS relative to those undecided or without plans. Conclusions: In combination with prior research, findings suggest elevated DIS may drive purchasing as a danger and distress management strategy, while low THT may protect against emotion-based firearm purchasing. Further research is needed to clarify the directionality of these relationships and to identify other dispositional characteristics of those purchasing firearms in 2020.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114408
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Boldness
  • Disinhibition
  • Firearms
  • Threat sensitivity


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