Men are more likely to own a gun — three times more, according to a 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center. This, despite marketing from gun manufacturers and groups such as the National Rifle Association to lure women.*
"We often talk about gender in terms of women ... getting the short end of the stick. ... Well, masculinity isn't easy either," said Jennifer Carlson, a sociology professor at the University of Arizona who studies gun politics and gender. "That's not your ticket to the good life. It isn't easy to be a man in the United States. Demands put on men — whether it's to be the protector, to be the provider, to respond to situations in certain ways, to prove yourself as a man — end up being not just outwardly destructive but also inwardly destructive." "Not only do traditional notions of masculinity prevent men from seeking counseling or other forms of help they need, help which may prevent these mass shootings, but violence is also inculcated as a more masculine alternative than help seeking," Kimmel and Leek wrote.
Men are forced to be tough and unemotional. It's an example of "toxic masculinity," the stereotypical and historically harmful definition of what it means to be a man.*
Men who think they're falling short of traditional gender norms are more likely to engage in "stereotypically masculine behaviors," like violence, according to a 2015 paper in the journal Injury Prevention. Likewise, when a man's masculinity and status is threatened, they express more support for war, male superiority and homophobic attitudes, summarized studies showed in the 2013 paper "Overdoing Gender: A Test of the Masculine Overcompensation Thesis," published in the American Journal of Sociology.
Carlson said that in her research, which focused on concealed carriers in the Detroit metro area, this has resulted in a shift in how men see their role in the family.
"What is a man's relevance in the home?" She asked. "One of the ways I saw it being reworked was by really embracing this protector role."
According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of gun owners say protection is a major reason they own a firearm, despite a 2016 review in the journal Epidemiologic Reviews of 130 studies that found firearm restrictions are associated with fewer deaths. And an analysis of Gallup polls from 2007 to 2012 found that marriage is a strong predictor of gun ownership.*
While protection is a major reason people say they own a gun, it isn't the only one. Some say they have guns for hunting. Others say they own guns because the Second Amendment says they can. Still others say guns are what keep them safe from a government that doesn't deserve their trust.
Saying that owning a gun "makes me a man" won't ever be listed among these reasons, but it's clear gun makers know that for many people, it subconsciously is.