Recreational Firearms Ownership in New Zealand

A research project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master of Science degree in Applied Psychology (APSY 650) at University of Canterbury in 1999.


Early research suggested that firearms were owned for two main reasons, sport and protection. Theories that proposed sport as a reason to own a firearm focused on hunting as the only recreational activity engaged in by firearm owners. However, the concept of owning a firearm for sport encompasses several different recreational activities. To examine whether firearm owners who owned firearms for different types of recreation shared characteristics, a sample of sixty-eight firearm owners was divided into two groups; hunting and other firearm related activities. Variables that had been previously reported to predict firearm ownership for sport were examined to determine whether they could discriminate between the two types of recreational activity. It was found that both groups were similar in terms of income, experience with firearms, their family’s experience with firearms, the area they lived in when they were a child, and the age they first fired and owned a firearm. These factors suggested that both groups were socialised into firearm ownership through the same processes. However, several variables differed significantly between the two groups. These were age, whether the participant belonged to community organisations, and the personality factor ‘sensitivity’ measured by the 16PF. This suggested that individuals who participated in different types of firearm-related recreational activities also differed in terms of personal and social characteristics.


To the people at Gun City, Shooters Supplies, and Ballingers Hunting and Fishing, I thank you for your assistance in providing me with the means to get my research project off the ground.

I also owe thanks to the firearm owners who cast aside any doubts or reservations they had about participating in the study. I do greatly appreciate their co-operation as I realise that the current debate concerning gun control places much stress on firearm owners.

Thanks to my scholarly friends, Dr M. Pepper, Big Al Snatch-Magnet, Buxom Barbie, Bubbly Anna, Loquacious Lisa, Tickle-Me Eric, Jo-Jo Beer Jugs, Silver-Tongue Randerson, Simon "I like circus girls" Gluyas, AWOL Jones, MIA Millichamp, Conjugal J. Carson, Audacious Andrea, Gentle Jenny, Rampant Rob, and Cavalier Catherine, for enduring my presence and my half-wit.

Thanks to Bruce for turning what could have been dry and loathsome lectures into animated and often riotous discussions. You added pragmatism to theoretical concepts and made them memorable.

Thanks also to my friends and family whose regular encouragement and food parcels were invaluable. I don’t think I could have survived the last two years without their support - or their comestibles.

Lastly, I give my wholehearted thanks to my supervisor who somehow tolerated my incessant and unscheduled visits to him. Thanks for the direction you provided, the reassurance you offered, and the knowledge you have conveyed. Thanks Chris!

Table of Contents

    * Abstract

    * Acknowledgements

    * Table of Contents

    * Introduction

    * A Leisure Pursuit Under Scrutiny: Licenced Firearm Owners and Recreational Ownership of Firearms in New Zealand

          o A Brief History of Firearms in New Zealand

          o The Emergence of Hunting and Other Firearm-Related Activities in New Zealand

          o Firearms and Firearm Owners in New Zealand

    * Common Theories of Firearm Ownership

          o Previous Examinations of New Zealand Hunters

    * Previous Studies of Firearm Ownership for Sporting Purposes:

          o Studies Investigating Psychological Variables Associated with Firearm Ownership

          o Studies Investigating Sociological Variables Associated With Firearm Ownership.

    * Research Questions

    * Method

          o Participants

          o Recruitment

          o Research Instruments

          o Procedure

    * Results

          o Demographics for the Sample of Firearm Owners

          o Family Experience and Exposure to Firearms

          o Splitting the Sample: An Analysis of Two Firearm-Owning Groups

          o A Comparison of the Total Firearm Licence Holding Sample and the 16PF Norms

    * Discussion

          o Evaluation of the Sampling Method

          o Age, Income, Residence, and Family Experience with Firearms

          o A Sample Split ~ Hunters and Others

          o Differences in Firearms Possessed

          o "Need for Power"

          o Personality Characteristics

          o A New Model of Recreational Firearm Ownership in New Zealand

    * Conclusion

    * References


Firearms have existed in one form or another since around the fourteenth century, based around the introduction of gunpowder to Europe from Asia (Infoplease, 1999a). After its invention the firearm was widely used as a weapon of war, but soon became popular for hunting purposes. There has been no change in this popularity, it still is arguably the preferred choice of hunting apparatus by many people world-wide. However, hunting is not necessarily the only recreational activity that firearms are used for. Firearm owners also participate in recreational activities such as target shooting and firearm collecting, but these activities have largely gone unnoticed by researchers.

Previous studies that have investigated firearm ownership have concluded that people own firearms either for protection or sport. They appear to have neglected to breakdown the notion of ‘sport’ into its sub-categories, such as target shooting and collecting, and assume that firearm owners share similar characteristics.

This research project separated recreational firearm owners into two groups to examine whether there were any differences between firearm owners of different firearm-related recreational activities. Variables from previous studies that were found to be associated with sporting ownership of firearms were analysed to ascertain if these factors could discriminate between individuals who owned firearms solely for hunting and individuals who owned firearms for other reasons. A personality test was also employed to examine whether there were differences in personality characteristics between these two groups.

The research project begins with a brief historical overview of firearms in New Zealand. The emergence and development of hunting and other types of recreational firearm activities such as target shooting and firearm collecting are then discussed. Information concerning the prevalence of firearms and the number of firearm owners in New Zealand is presented to illustrate the current situation regarding firearm ownership in New Zealand. The focus of the research project then shifts to examining common theories and findings regarding firearm owners. Initially this begins with a review of studies that have analysed New Zealand firearm owners, the focus then turns to several international studies. A psychological investigation on firearm users in the United States of America and a similar study performed on British Police who use firearms are then examined to gather material concerning psychological characteristics of firearm owners. The next section of the research project examines sociological factors that are associated with firearm ownership. Most theories of firearm ownership stem from these sociological studies which were performed predominantly in the USA.

Research questions concerning both sociological variables and personality factors based on the literature review are then presented. This is followed by the method section that outlines the procedures, participants, and research tools used in gathering the data for this study. The results section presents the information collected from the two questionnaires used and this material is critically considered in the discussion section. The conclusion of this study considers possible limitations involved and suggestions for future studies that intend to further investigate this area.

A Leisure Pursuit Under Scrutiny: Licenced Firearm Owners and Recreational Ownership of Firearms in New Zealand

It is not uncommon to hear through the media of firearm-related offences in the community. Some of the more infamous incidents, such as the massacres in Aramoana (1990), Port Arthur (1996), and Dunblane (1996), have not only fuelled the gun control debate on an international level, but they have also caused the public to critically consider the question of why people own firearms.

According to Thorp (1997) there are four thousand firearm offences each year in New Zealand. The frequency of such incidents has motivated anti-gun lobbyists to push for tighter controls on firearms. Amidst the escalating debate concerning gun control legislation in New Zealand and the speculation concerning the motivations of the firearm-owning individual, one may be forgiven for thinking that owners of firearms were an uncertain and potentially hazardous ‘subculture’ of society. The "Review of Firearms Control in New Zealand" (1997) (also known as the Thorp Review) states that there is growing public concern about the level of violence within society. Furthermore, the report states that firearms are perceived by many individuals to be instrumental in this trend. It is hoped that this study will provide empirical evidence that may assist in creating a more accurate description of New Zealand firearm owners, and offer an explanation as to what some of the determinants of different types of firearm ownership are in New Zealand.

A Brief History of Firearms in New Zealand

Firearms spread throughout the world during the period of European expansion when countries such as England, France, and Germany began colonising other lands. Since the first Europeans visited New Zealand this country has had a lengthy relationship with firearms. In fact the first recorded use of a firearm in New Zealand was on Abel Tasman’s voyage to New Zealand in 1642. Cannon and muskets were used in this incident to end a conflict between Tasman’s crew and a group of Maori from Golden Bay (Forsyth, 1985). One hundred and twenty seven years later a similar event occurred on Captain James Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand when a ‘native’ was reported to have attacked Cook and his men. The native was shot by Cook’s men on the 9th of October 1769 at Poverty Bay (CCSU, 1999).

The discovery of New Zealand by Europeans over two hundred years ago presented whaling and sealing parties with a new unexplored area that was rich with resources. These gangs were quick to venture further south from their ports in New South Wales (Australia) to reap the spoils of this newly discovered land.

At the turn of the nineteenth century many European settlements were forming on the coasts of New Zealand where shipping vessels could dock. Settlements such as these soon became involved in skirmishes with the local resident Maori population. Firearms became involved in these conflicts, and in other conflicts between Maori tribes. By 1840 it is estimated that several hundred firearms were in Maori hands and approximately forty thousand Maori had been killed (Sinclair, 1969). Shortly thereafter the first arms control legislation was introduced, this was called the Arms Importation Ordinance of 1845. The purpose of this legislation was to regulate the importation and sale of firearms and related goods. In later times (especially with the advent of the Maori Wars) more legislation was passed with the probable motive of preventing the Maori from gaining access to weapons and munitions that could be used against the Crown (Forsyth, 1985). According to Forsyth, the Arms Act of 1880 was more detailed than its predecessor but essentially dealt with the same main issue - keeping firearms out of rebel Maori possession. As time past and New Zealand society evolved the emphasis of keeping firearms out of the hands of rebel natives was no longer an issue to the Government. The main concern now was to regulate the ownership of the firearm to those individuals who were responsible and fit enough to use them as tools for farming, pest destruction, and recreational activities. The continual revisions and amendments to the Arms Act reflected this gradual change (Forsyth, 1985). The firearm had begun its history in New Zealand as a weapon of war, and had gradually evolved into a tool for a variety of recreational activities such as firearm collecting, target shooting, and hunting.

The Emergence of Hunting and Other Firearm-Related Activities in New Zealand

Since their arrival in New Zealand the Europeans have introduced more than fifty new species of animal. Captain James Cook and his crew were one of the first groups to release animals into New Zealand that were of foreign origin; these animals were wild pigs and goats. The release of these animals was for reasons of survival, in case Cook and his men or other seafarers were shipwrecked. These animals were not originally intended to be released for sporting purposes.

Acclimatisation Societies were organised in the 1860’s with the intention of introducing supposedly innocuous creatures to New Zealand. Various species of birds, fish, and land mammals were released so that they could breed and provide a source of food, sport, whilst also being ‘ornamental’ (Forsyth, 1985). Part of the motivation for the release of these animals in New Zealand was also to provide the ‘common man’ with the option to legally be able hunt game. In England, where most of the immigrants had come from, hunting was predominantly restricted to the gentry who owned much of the land. Perhaps the most bizarre and acclaimed species introduced were Moose from Canada which arrived in New Zealand (though unsuccessfully) on the 8th of February 1900 (Harris, 1998). In total, five Moose have been shot in the lower South Island; it is not known whether any of the other Moose or offspring of the original imported Moose survive today.

Since the introduction of various species by acclimatisation societies, an industry that serves the hunting market has become well established in New Zealand. Outdoor equipment stores, sport shooting associations, gunsmiths, firearm stores, shooting magazines, and hunting ranches are but a few of the businesses that make up this industry. Some of these businesses also provide materials, services, and equipment for other firearm-related activities such as target shooting and collecting. These other areas of firearm activity that lie outside the domain of hunting comprise of thousands of enthusiasts, but tend not to be as visible to society as hunting is. Firearm collecting is a prime example of a recreational activity involving guns that is generally overlooked in discussions concerning firearm activities (Wright & Marston, 1975). Nevertheless, it has had a long history in New Zealand. Forsyth (1985) states that it was during the late colonial period that arms collections were initially established. These collections were formed primarily by individuals who had retired from the military. Some of their armouries contained over a thousand weapons. In contemporary New Zealand society collecting firearms is still popular. There are 3153 category C licence holders who are permitted under particular circumstances to collect certain types of firearms and weaponry.

Another favourite firearm-related recreational pastime involves target shooting. This activity stems from Europe and the USA, becoming popular in New Zealand in the 1860’s. This activity involves a wide range of firearms that are used to shoot at inanimate targets that range from paper bulls-eyes and balloons, to clay ‘pigeons’ (round ceramic discs). There are 2460 category B licences issued to New Zealanders allowing them to own and use handguns at various handgun ranges around the country (Gatland, 1999). Like collecting, the total target shooting population is likely to be much larger as there are other forms of target shooting, such as small bore rifle target-shooting, which only require a category A licence.

It is evident then that the majority of licenced firearm owners may well be hunters, but there are several thousand other firearm enthusiasts who use firearms for other recreational activities.

Firearms and Firearm Owners in New Zealand

An AGB McNair survey requested by Thorp in his review of firearms control in New Zealand found that 20% of New Zealand’s 1.17 million households contained at least one firearm. It was found that on average there were 1.8 users of the firearms in each household. This translated into approximately 350,000 to 400,000 users of firearms (Thorp, 1997). According to these figures about ten percent of the population use firearms. The number of firearm licences issued by the Police stands at a figure around 230,000, or about six percent of the total population (NZ Police, 1999). Before the amendments in 1992 to the previous Arms Act (1983) there were reported to be about 355,000 licenced firearm owners (Thorp, 1997). Despite the drop in licence numbers, recreational use of firearms is still popular, although the number of new applicants each year is quite low in comparison to previous years. In 1989, before the 1992 Arms Amendment Act was introduced, there were over ten thousand applications for new licences. In 1996 that figured dropped to a little over five thousand (Thorp, 1997). Forsyth’s (1985) examination of firearms in New Zealand found that the annual increase in the numbers of new applications was around 3.6 percent. However, Thorp (1997) states that it is doubtful if there is any increase today, which will more than likely result in an ageing firearm user population.

There is other evidence that Thorp is correct in his claim that the population of firearm owners who own guns for hunting is not only ageing, but also diminishing and becoming inactive in terms of frequency of hunting. Nugent (1991; in Thorp, 1997) found that the predominant group of firearms owners in New Zealand to be hunters and former hunters. Nugent’s survey also found that seventy-seven percent of all firearms had been used for hunting at some stage, but people who continued to have an interest in hunting only held half of these firearms. The remaining fifty percent of these firearms were thought by Nugent to be unused or used for target shooting. Nugent’s claim is partially supported by the fact that since 1991 there has been a decline in the number of hunting permits issued which suggests that there has been a decrease in hunting (Thorp, 1997).

There are a considerable number of firearms in New Zealand for a country of over 3.5 million people. Forsyth’s (1985) study reported that there were four hundred and sixty thousand rifles and three hundred thousand shotguns in New Zealand. Forsyth’s figure for the number of rifles includes military style semi-automatics (MSSA’s). It is estimated that there are about twenty thousand of these firearms in New Zealand, this figure includes sporterised MSSA’s (Thorp, 1997). The number of handguns in New Zealand is thought to be approximately thirty thousand. This figure includes registered handguns, antiques, and an estimate of illegally possessed handguns (Thorp, 1997). Unlike some other areas of recreational firearm use, pistol shooting is reported to have increased substantially over the past several years. In 1989 the total number of members associated with the New Zealand Pistol Association (NZPA) was 1646, in March 1997 that figure had grown to 2427. The average number of handguns per NZPA affiliated member is calculated by Thorp to be 3.5. One hundred and ninety-one of these NZPA members are female. However, the total number of female pistol shooters (and female shooters in general) is likely to be more as individuals without a firearms licence can accompany and use firearms under the supervision of another licence holder under certain conditions.

Although there has been a drop in the number of New Zealanders who hold licences for firearms since the passing of legislation in 1992, there still remains a large number of individuals who partake in various recreational activities that involve firearms. This group also possesses a large number and a variety of firearms. These factors suggest that as forms of recreation, firearm-related sports should be considered popular and widely established leisure activities amongst the New Zealand population. Regardless of this popularity, the motivation behind owning firearms for different types of activities remains unidentified.

Common Theories of Firearm Ownership

Possibly the most well known theory of firearm ownership stems from the psychoanalytical perspective in which firearms are seen as phallic, representative of male dominance and masculine power (Diener & Kerber, 1979; Wright & Marston, 1975; Williams & McGrath, 1976; Stickney; in Slovenko & Knight, 1967; Branscombe & Owen, 1991). Similar themes of virility and a need for power are expressed in other literature (Wright, Rossi, & Daly, 1983). Winter (1973) states that one theme commonly found in the hunting literature is the idea that firearms affirm a person’s strength and invulnerability. Other explanations of firearm ownership are based on fear of criminal activity, psychological insecurity, authoritarianism, a tendency towards violence, generalised pessimism (Wright et al., 1983). The vast majority of these theories are speculative in nature. Very few empirical studies have been undertaken to investigate any of these assumptions concerning the motivations or determinants of firearm ownership.

Theories that are grounded in the sporting domain of firearm ownership stress a desire and mastery during hunting and a desire to be close to nature (Vitali, 1990; Diener & Kerber, 1979). However, very few studies have been instigated to investigate the psychological aspects of different types of firearm ownership, fewer still find any significant variables that could determine ownership, or distinguish between the different types of firearm ownership. Due primarily to the lack of literature on the psychological motivation of firearm ownership for sport, theories remain abundant and largely unsubstantiated.

Most of the studies relevant to this investigation were performed in the USA, using American citizens as the sample population. Many of these studies concluded that there were two main reasons for firearm ownership; protection and sport. However, the majority of these studies that used the concept of firearm ownership for the purpose of sport assumed the only sport there was to be accomplished with a firearm was hunting. They neglected the fact that the recreational use of firearms also includes collecting firearms and target shooting; two areas that (as previously mentioned) are not only popular but are also quite different to hunting. This oversight may be due to the marked lack of empirical literature on either gun collecting or target shooting. It may also be due to the greater popularity and prominence of hunting over these other two pastimes. The cultural difference between the USA and other countries may also account for the tendency for most of the American studies in this area to overlook other forms of recreational firearm use. In the USA it is accepted that owning a firearm for the purpose of self-defence is a legitimate action. Therefore, the studies that examined the motivations behind owning a firearm in the USA have generally focused on explaining the differences in motivation between owning a firearm for sporting purposes and owning a firearm for protection. However, in New Zealand a firearms licence will not be issued to an applicant if the purpose of owning a firearm is declared to be self-defence. We may assume then that firearms owned by licenced firearm owners are used for the purpose of recreation; but we cannot determine what form of recreation the firearm is owned for.

Previous Examinations of New Zealand Hunters

The AGB McNair survey prepared for Thorp’s (1997) review of firearms control used a telephone survey to randomly sample one thousand households in New Zealand. Twenty percent of respondents indicated that someone in their house owned a firearm. Seventeen percent of respondents indicated that someone in their household possessed at least one rifle, 11% of respondents indicated that there was at least one shotgun, and 2% of respondents reported to have at least one pistol in the household. The incidence of firearm ownership was higher in certain situations. Typically more households owned firearms when: respondents lived in rural areas; the household was located in the South Island; the youngest child was at least fifteen years of age; the main income earner was a farm owner or manager; and the household income was at least NZ$40,000 per annum. People that had a higher propensity to use their firearms were subject to the same factors as were previously found for households that were more likely to contain firearms, but generally these households earned more than NZ$60,000, and/or lived in young households with no children.

Groome, Simmons, and Clark’s (1983) study on the recreational use of Central North Island and Canterbury State Forest Parks investigated the activities and demographics of park users. Groome et al. compared data from a previous study performed by Simmons and Devlin (1982) who analysed hunters from Canterbury State Forest-Parks with data that they collected from State Forest-Parks in the Central North Island. One of the larger parties that used the State Parks was the group that identified themselves as hunters. Of the respondents who participated in this study 99.6% were male. The hunters of the Central North Island were on average older than their counterparts in Canterbury. The largest age group of recreational hunters from Canterbury were situated in the 20-30 year old range and possessed between four and ten years hunting experience. The sample of hunters taken from the Canterbury district were found to live primarily in either an all adult household, with their parents, or they were the parents of primary school age children. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents in the Canterbury sample were married, 38% were single, 5% were categorised as ‘other’.

Analysis of the vocation of the hunters revealed a variety of occupations similar to those found in the AGB McNair survey. The occupations that were the most frequently reported in the Canterbury sample were related to production and labouring (30%), agriculture and forestry (19.5%), and professional/technical (15%). The highest level of education attained was higher in the Canterbury sample than the Central North Island group.

Groome et al.’s (1983) study also found that of the groups who used the forest for recreational purposes, hunting was more popular with rural dwellers or individuals who had been brought up in a rural area. Family members (40.5%) and friends (28.6%) were identified as the agents who most frequently introduced respondents to hunting, while clubs played a minor role (2.2%). It was also found that hunters tended to gain experience on smaller forms of game (rabbits, hares, goats) before moving on to larger game, such as deer. Hunters in both the Canterbury and Central North Island studies tended to travel with one or two friends to their hunting areas and then hunt alone or in pairs. Groome et al. report that patterns in their data suggest that there is a substantial core of enthusiastic hunters who make many return trips with small groups of friends or family to familiar hunting areas. The majority of hunters reported that they had been introduced to hunting before the age of twenty. Of the Canterbury sample, individuals who had been hunting for more than ten years constituted 48.3% of the respondents.

Few hunters (10%) were found to belong to any conservation organisation, but over half belonged to some type of outdoor recreation organisation (52.5%). The main motivations expressed for hunting were concerned with the natural environment (e.g. ‘getting away from civilisation’), factors surrounding the hunting exercise itself (such as the development and testing of skill), and personal/social or physical reasons. Eighty-one percent of hunters who had given up the sport had withdrawn from hunting between one and two years after their last ‘successful’ trip; another 7.1% had given up in the following year. Groome et al. claim that continued success in killing animals is a crucial factor in the hunter’s continued motivation to hunt. When asked why they hunted the respondents in the Canterbury sample listed what Groome et al. call "environmental" reasons. These were explanations that concerned themselves with the actual physical nature of the environment and ‘escaping civilisation’. The next most common responses were concerned with the activity of hunting itself. These were reasons such as the development and testing of skills, the physical rewards gained, the intense personal excitement or thrill of hunting, and the hunting activity itself.

As previously mentioned Simmons & Devlin (1982) examined the users of State Forest-Parks in Canterbury looking specifically at certain user groups, one of which was the ‘hunter’ group. In order to add validity to the findings of their survey Simmons & Devlin compared their sample of State Forest-Park hunters to a sample of rifle owners who were contacted by postal means. The rifle owners were segregated into two groups, active rifle owners and non-active rifle owners. The active rifle (48.4%) owners were on average aged 31 years, and had more years of hunting experience than the State Forest-Park hunting sample. The active rifle sample was reported to conform to the trends found with the State Forest-Park hunter sample in areas such as their situation at home, and socio-economic status. More than one rifle was owned by 70.9% of the respondents; 8.6% owned a shotgun.

About forty-three percent of the rifle owners’ sample was classified as being non-active hunters. The remaining portion of firearm owners consisted of those who either had a rifle but had not yet hunted (3%) or had no interest in hunting (5.6%). The inclusion of this group provided Simmons & Devlin with information pertaining to why these ex-hunters no longer hunted. "A lack of time" was given by 28% of the ex-hunters as their main reason for retirement from hunting. The next most popular reasons were ‘a decline in animal numbers’ (21.4%) and ‘a change in family circumstances’ (21.4%). Simmons and Devlin (1982) state that the amount of time that an individual can devote to hunting may be moderated by factors such as having a family or other responsibilities and commitments. As an individual gets older, these social factors consume more time thus impinging upon the attention that one can allocate to hunting.

Henderson & Stagpoole’s (1974) study is useful to compare samples from previous studies to so that a valid description of New Zealand firearm licence holders can be established. The description of hunters provided by this study is largely in agreement with the studies performed by both Simmons & Devlin (1982) and Groome et al. (1983). Henderson & Stagpoole described the hunting population of New Zealand as consisting of mainly males (97%) who were predominantly young, 12-24 years (42%). These individuals were often married (61%) with children who were under twelve years of age (44%). In terms of education two percent of these hunters were students, and few had degrees. Henderson & Stagpoole describe the average occupation of this group to primarily be located in the middle income bracket.

These studies focused on the hunter as the primary firearm owner in New Zealand, other forms of firearm related activity were either not relevant to the researchers at the time, or neglected. However, these surveys do provide us with some important demographic information. It would seem that the average New Zealand firearm owner who hunts is male, typically rural, and earns above the above the average wage. Other than this information, not much is known about the motivations or the characteristics of hunters in New Zealand. Due to the lack of any scientific literature on other forms of firearm-related recreational activities, even less is known about the attributes of the individuals who participate in these leisure pursuits.

Previous Studies of Firearm Ownership for Sporting Purposes

Studies Investigating Psychological Variables Associated with Firearm Ownership

The few empirical studies that have been undertaken to investigate the variables associated with firearm ownership are predominantly sociological. Evidence on the personality characteristics, motivations, and other psychological factors of firearm owners is scarce.

Diener & Kerber (1979) examined both the psychological and sociological characteristics of firearm owners in an attempt to explore the reasons behind firearm ownership and to collect evidence with regard to popular stereotypes of firearm owners. The size of their sample was small. In all, thirty-seven firearm owners and a ‘matched’ sample of twenty-three non-owners were used. A small sample such as this can reduce the value of an experiment, therefore caution should be applied when assessing their study. The participants in Diener & Kerber’s (1979) study were recruited through newspaper advertisements, signs at local gun clubs, target ranges, and stores selling firearms. An incentive of seven dollars was offered in return for participation in the study. Participants were promised absolute anonymity in partaking in the experiment, although their names and addresses were required (but were not associated with the responses given). These details were used to locate individuals who lived in the same area who were approached to form a ‘matched’ sample.

The purpose of this exercise was to initially match the two groups in terms of socio-economic status. Both of these groups were administered the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), the F Scale, the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), and a questionnaire that examined other lifestyle factors.

Diener and Kerber found that the two groups matched initially for socio-economic status (by living area) did not differ significantly in terms of occupational level, age, or level of education. The CPI’s scales (a set of national norms provided by the test publisher) were also used as a comparison with the firearm sample. There was no significant difference on any of the scales.

The majority of the gun owners handled their firearms regularly, 62% handled their firearms several times a month or more. Just under half (49%) of the firearm owners had attended a firearms safety course. The average number of handguns possessed was one; the average number of rifles and/or shotguns possessed was two.

The most outstanding difference between owners and non-owners was that firearm owners were exposed to a variety of situations that provided interactions with firearms. Early socialisation with firearms correlated significantly with firearm ownership later in life. Individuals in the sample of firearm owners were more likely to have grown up in rural areas or small towns. Non-owners tended to have grown up in cities or suburbs. The fathers of the surveyed firearm owners were also more likely to have owned firearms than non-owners. Furthermore, gun owners were more inclined to buy their children toy guns.

Diener and Kerber found that there were two popular reasons for owning firearms in the USA. The most frequently cited reason was recreation (target shooting, hunting, and guns as interesting devices). The next most frequent response was protection, more specifically protection of the home and protection of the self. However, there was no attempt to discriminate between possible personality differences between those firearm owners who possessed firearms for recreation and those who owned firearms for protection.

Diener and Kerber reported there were several personality characteristics that differed between their samples of firearm owners and non-owners. The results from the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) indicated that firearm owners tended to have a higher need for power (reaffirming some of the older thoughts on firearm ownership; Winter, 1973). Analysis of the data from the CPI and the F Scale suggested that firearm owners were also more ‘open-minded’. But in terms of sociability (measured with the CPI) and affiliation (measured with the CPI and the TAT) firearm owners scored lower on average than non-owners. Diener and Kerber (1979) suggested that the need for power (in the recreational context of firearm ownership) might be satisfied because of the control and precision involved as well as the power of life and death that the shooter has over their prey. These differences in personality were minor; all the results for the firearm owners were well within the "normal" range. There was no evidence that firearm owners were more personally insecure than non-owners were.

It was concluded that the average firearm owner did not exhibit atypical personality characteristics when compared with the sub scale of the CPI, nor did they differ significantly from the matched sample of non-owners. Perhaps Diener and Kerber’s most relevant point was that since about one-half of American households in the USA contained a gun, it seemed somewhat unrealistic to attribute severe abnormal characteristics to the average gun owner. In their sample it was decided that firearm ownership was determined by early socialisation rather than "…unusual personality needs (pp236)."

Cooper, Robertson, and Sharman (1986) performed a study that was concerned with the psychometric profiling of British police officers who were authorised to carry firearms. In this study, Cattell’s 16PF, the Crown Crisp Experiential Index (1966), and the Dynamic Personality Inventory were administered to fifty-two police officers; twenty-two of which were authorised to carry firearms. These twenty-two police officers were fully trained to carry firearms and were required to occasionally. The other group were not fully trained to carry firearms, and were not called upon to do so. Only the 16PF produced results showing statistically significant trends. The overall finding was that the officers authorised to carry firearms were more like the general population than those officers not authorised to carry firearms, which according to Cooper et al. suggested that "…successful authorised firearms officers might need to be as ‘normal’ as possible (pp545)." What these results may suggest is that Diener and Kerber’s findings are correct and there are no personality differences between firearm owners and the general population.

However, this study is problematic for several reasons:

   1. There is no record of how the individuals in the firearm-carrying group and non firearm-carrying group were initially selected to carry firearms and not carry firearms respectively.

   2. It is difficult to establish if there was an effect due to firearms training (and the responsibility of being given a firearm) as the personality questionnaires were given to the two groups after the weapons and weapons training had been allocated to the authorised firearm officers. There was no prior personality testing mentioned in the study, so a comparison is impossible. Were the personality differences found as a result of the prior personality differences between the groups, or were they a consequence of one group receiving the weapons and training?

Cooper et al.’s (1986) study although seemingly relevant to the current study because of its administration of personality questionnaires to individual’s who use firearms, should be treated with caution. This is because part of the responsibility of being a Police officer is to be able to use certain tools in their job that are not normally part of everyday life (or an everyday job). Firearms are such an object. They are a piece of equipment, a tool, used by the Police to perform their job; they are not always recreational items. Therefore the analysis of personality characteristics of Police personnel who use (or who are trained to use) firearms may involve the examination of factors that are different to the factors related to sporting use of firearms. Thus, the sample that Cooper et al.’s study focused on may not be representative of firearm owners who are not Police personnel.

Studies Investigating Sociological Variables Associated With Firearm Ownership.

The studies in this area are generally divided on the reasons of firearm ownership although there are some factors that frequently appear in several studies (Wright & Marston, 1975; Lizotte, Bordua, & White, 1981; Ellison, 1991; Schwaner, Furr, Negrey, & Seger, 1999). These studies tend to focus on subcultures within society and the function of firearms within these subcultures (Ellison, 1991; Brymer, 1991, Lizotte & Bordua, 1980; O’Connor & Lizotte, 1978). Hackney’s (1969) theory of firearm ownership places heavy emphasis on a Southern American subculture of violence and the function of firearms in it. Gastil (1971) and Reed (1972) support Hackney’s position, arguing that the high incidence of homicide in the South and the high rates of firearm ownership are due largely to a subculture of violence in that region. This approach assumes that the firearms are not violent, but rather the culture of violence causes individuals to obtain them and use them for violent purposes. Implicit in Hackney’s theory, according to Lizotte & Bordua (1980), is the assumption that all firearm owners are potentially violent and ownership of a firearm is an indicator of this potential. Hackney, Gastil, and Reed all ignore firearm ownership for recreational purposes.

Several of the variables examined in this research project were previously investigated by Lizotte, Bordua, & White (1981) who constructed a model (see figure 1) to explain firearm ownership for "sport". The model does not attempt to distinguish between (or even mention) different forms of firearm-related recreational activities. Rather it assumes that all firearm owners who own firearms for sport are hunters. This makes the model too complex as many different forms of firearm related leisure activities are compressed into one category. These activities may be vastly different in terms of the characteristics and motivations of the individuals that partake in them, but the consolidation of them into one "sporting" group could result in a model that overlooks inter-group differences.

Figure 1. Bordua, Lizotte & White’s (1981) path model of firearm ownership for sport (hunting and other activities have been added to demonstrate two possible outlets of firearm-related recreational activity).

Lizotte, Bordua, & White (1981) also studied the ownership of firearms for protection, but since the motive of protection or self-defence is inadmissible as a reason to apply for a firearms licence in New Zealand, this research project will focus on different recreational patterns of firearm ownership. As part of the investigation into firearm ownership for recreational reasons, two possible outlets of firearm-related recreational activity (‘hunting’ and ‘other activities’) have been affixed to Lizotte et al.’s (1981) model.

Lizotte, Bordua, White (1981) claim that there are three basic reasons for firearm ownership - sporting, protection, and criminal activity. Their study examined three possible subcultures of firearm ownership; sport, protection, and violence. Because their study researched patterns of legal firearm ownership, their research only focused on the sporting and protection subcultures, and not the hypothesised subculture of violence. The data for Lizotte, Bordua, & White (1981) study was compiled through a random sample of 764 heads-of-households in the state of Illinois, 714 of these cases were used.

Lizotte & Bordua’s (1980) original study hypothesised that there was a subculture of firearm owners who used firearms for sporting purposes. The only criterion required to belong to such a subculture was that individuals owned firearms for sporting purposes. Their revised ‘path model’ (Bordua, Lizotte, & White, 1981) claims that there are several variables that are good predictors (see figure 1) for determining firearm ownership for sport. However, this theory like others does not differentiate between different forms of recreational firearm use. In fact, a thorough search of the literature resulted in the conclusion that the reasons for firearm ownership for different type of recreational activity are still unknown.

The variables that Lizotte et al. (1981) claimed to be significant predictors of owning a firearm for sport were: education, subscription to sporting magazines, their sex, the number of permits issued for hunting in surrounding counties, the size of the area they lived in when they were 16, the parent’s possession of firearms, the respondents current age, whether the individual had been trained to use a firearm, whether or not the family hunted together, the size of the area they currently lived in (rural vs. urban), and the age of the individual when they first owned a firearm.

Bordua, Lizotte, & White (1981) claim that socialisation factors and situational concerns seem to be the most important predictors of sporting firearm ownership. The statistically significant socialisation factors were subscriptions to sporting magazines, family members hunting together, and if the individual was trained to use firearms. The statistically significant situational concerns were parent’s firearm ownership, the size of the area the individual lived in, their level of education, the age of the individual when they acquired their first firearm, and their current age. Respondents were likely to own firearms when household members hunted together, when the hunting in the county was frequent, and when they had been trained. If an individual subscribed to sporting magazines, it was highly likely that they owned a firearm. The magazines were hypothesised to also act as a medium for members of the sporting subculture so that they could keep in contact with other members. Individuals are more likely to own firearms when size of the place in which they live is small (i.e. rural residence as opposed to urban). People who were more educated tended not to own firearms for sport. The age of the individual in this study was also found to be positively related to ownership.

Several other variables were found to have indirect effects on sporting gun ownership because they influenced the age of the individual when they first acquired a firearm. These factors were all situational: the size of their residence when they were 16 years of age, the number of hunting licenses issued in their county of residence, and parent’s firearm ownership.

Military training has been found in previous studies (Newton & Zimring, 1968) to be strongly correlated with firearm ownership. Lizotte, Bordua, & White (1981) initially predicted that individuals who were or had been in the military at some stage would have been exposed to firearms, and thus may have been socialised into firearm use. Therefore, these individuals would be more likely to own firearms for sporting purposes. However, Lizotte, Bordua, & White found no significant relationship between these variables. Veterans were no more likely own a firearm than anyone else. Similarly, individuals with higher incomes were predicted to be more likely to own firearms, but income did not feature as a significant predictor of firearm possession. This was surprising as firearms and associated activities are expensive.

Wright & Marston (1975) found from their sample of fifteen hundred Americans that firearm ownership was primarily a middle-class and rural phenomenon. In addition to this, they found that Americans who resided in the southern states were more likely to own firearms. These gun owners were disproportionately Protestant in their religion, were white, and were of higher income than average. Education was only found to be a weak predictor of firearm ownership, with firearm possession most frequent with those individuals whose highest level of education attained was high school. The patterns for income and "occupational prestige" were reported to be nearly linear - as socio-economic status increased, so too did the probability of owning a firearm (contradictory to Lizotte, Bordua, & White’s [1981] study).

Weapons ownership was concluded by Wright and Marston to be a middle class phenomenon. This socio-economic trend was found to be true in cities also, although in these highly populated areas the anticipation and expectation of crime and "urban degradation" was claimed to be an important determinant of firearm ownership. However, like other researchers Wright & Marston failed to examine predictors for different types of recreational firearm use.

In DeFronzo’s (1979) study, regression analysis was used to predict firearm ownership. DeFronzo found that religion, region, and income had a statistically significant relationship to firearm ownership. Factors that were not statistically significant were fear, marital status, victimisation in the past, race, size of place of residence, and political affiliation. This study also did not distinguish between the motivations behind firearm ownership. This may explain why some of the factors in this study were not found to be significant, but were found to be significant in other studies that did distinguish between possession of a firearm for sport and protection. For example, by distinguishing between the purpose of owning a firearm Lizotte, Bordua, and White. (1981) were able to split a factor such as the size of an individuals residential area (urban or rural) into two groups that were significant predictors. This factor may not have been statistically significant if it was assumed that all firearm owners possessed firearms for the same purpose.

O’Connor & Lizotte’s (1978) study examined the idea of a southern subculture of violence proposed by Reed (1972), Gastil (1971), and Hackney (1969), and the role that firearms play in this subculture. O’Connor & Lizotte sampled a total of 2294 firearm owners from several southern American states to examine the patterns of firearm ownership. Their research lead them to conclude that veteran status (ex-military) and occupational prestige do not have an important impact on gun or pistol ownership. Pistol and gun ownership were strongly related to how rural the area was where an individual spent their adolescence. Current residence was found to be unrelated to pistol ownership, although it was moderately related to the possession of other firearms that were not handguns. The authors acknowledge that their study and many previous studies of similar ambitions have overlooked the variety of uses of firearms, such as hunting, gun collecting, and other sport shooting activities.

Olmsted (1988) investigated the "morally controversial leisure" of gun collecting in his attempt to show how certain hobbies may become perceived as social problems. Olmsted’s examination of the area is significant because it provides an insight to the social and psychological factors that motivate the individual to collect firearms, an area that most other studies pay little attention to. Olmsted reported that gun collectors were often involved in the sporting use of firearms at an early age. Some of these collectors remained involved in sport shooting, while others specialised entirely in collecting. Olmsted states that quite frequently gun collectors’ report an early fascination with an old firearm, and often the firearm is not in a working condition. Interest is maintained with firearms through toys and play. Olmsted claims that involvement with firearms associates the younger male (typically) to older admired males, and distinguishes him from females. In terms of sociability, Olmsted claims that firearm collectors tend to limit their interactions to talking about instrumental topics. Another feature of collecting is displaying the collection. According to Olmsted, this activity demonstrates the creativity of the collector, because although firearms are acquired, "collections and displays are created". This activity is also competitive in nature. Even when collections are not formally entered in a competition, collectors and enthusiasts alike informally judge the quality of the collection. Furthermore, the interactions between a gun collector and their guns include a considerable amount of what Olmsted states as "playing" (pp279). Olmsted claims that to many admirers, firearms provide pleasure by the way they ‘feel’. This is beneficial for the collector because by learning the feel of certain firearms they are aided in determining whether other guns are genuine or not. Thus, Olmsted states that to a collector knowing firearms is a sensory activity. Joining a gun and cartridge collecting association is subject to a vetting procedure by club officials. This process establishes whether the applicant is a legitimate and knowledgeable collector. Hence, the procedure ensures that only individuals of a certain type can gain entry to the organisation. Ignorance, arrogance, carelessness, extreme machismo, or uncritical love of gun will, according to Olmsted, lead to rejection. In summarising the general culture, Olmsted states that "until one demonstrates that they can be trusted as an insider, one is treated as an outsider (pp280)."

Target Shooting

A thorough search of the literature revealed no empirical studies that investigated what initially motivates an individual to take up target shooting (as opposed to sport shooting in general). However there is an extensive literature on the practice of target shooting. This literature is comprised of manuals and handbooks that describe the history, techniques, and types of events that target shooting entails (Fuller, 1977; Leatherdale & Leatherdale, 1995; Hinchcliffe, 1981). The introductory commentaries by the authors in these books revealed some insight to what motivates a target shooter and the characteristics that are required to be successful. The concept most frequently stated was the need for precision (Partridge; in Willock, 1994; Fuller, 1977). Leatherdale & Leatherdale (1995) stressed this notion stating that the target shooter is "striving for perfection in the knowledge that it is almost impossible to achieve (pp126)." This suggests that the temperament of the target shooter needs to be disciplined, resolute, and tenacious. This is supported by Fuller (1977) who states that the target shooter "leaves nothing to chance in his (sic) constant endeavour to improve his scores (pp15)." Hinchcliffe (1981) also reaffirms this point stating that self-discipline is essential for "following the set rules for firing a pistol accurately in practice as well as in competition (p14)."

In Conclusion

It should be noted that many of the studies previously discussed investigated the concept of firearm subcultures in the southern states of the USA and thus used samples of southern Americans. These studies previously discussed do not always agree on the same factors that determine firearm ownership, but there are several factors that frequently appear in studies concerned with firearm ownership. These are factors such as sex, parent’s ownership of firearms, and the area of residence that an individual lived in when they were an adolescent. This investigation examined these variables that have emerged repeatedly from several different studies performed in the USA to ascertain how applicable they are in determining firearm ownership for hunting and for other forms of firearm-related recreation in New Zealand.

Research Questions

The study addressed a number of specific research questions. Bakal (1966), Newton & Zimring (1968), and Lizotte & Bordua (1979) all hypothesised that the individual is socialised into firearm ownership by the military because of the exposure that these individuals have with firearms. In New Zealand all members of the military are required to undergo firearms training, thus we would expect that military or veteran status would act as a predictor variable for some form of firearm ownership. The parallel situation for civilians is hypothesised to be the individual’s early use of firearms. The earlier the individual acquires a firearm should, according to Lizotte & Bordua, also increase the probability that the individual will own a firearm in later life for hunting. If the ‘socialisation’ theory were correct, the parents or caregivers possession of firearms would affect the likelihood of ownership of a firearm by the sibling in later life. It would also mean that other members of the individual’s family are more likely to own firearms for hunting. Subscriptions to sport shooting magazines, such as "Rod and Rifle" that feature firearms and hunting would probably increase the likelihood of an individual possessing a firearm licence for hunting because it would serve to further familiarise and socialise the individual with information concerned with hunting. Previous studies have found that hunting is primarily a rural activity (Lizotte & Bordua, 1980; Wright & Marston, 1975), rural people will therefore be more likely to possess firearms, and are more likely to use firearms for hunting than other activities. Those individuals who grew up in rural areas are expected to continue to exhibit behaviours learnt in the rural environment (such as recreational firearm use) regardless of the area they now live in.

Due to the expense of firearms (particularly high quality, antique, and precision firearms), those individuals with higher incomes are more likely to be collectors or target shooters. Also, those individuals with more firearms and a greater variety of firearms are more likely to be collectors. Nugent (in Thorp 1997) stated that a large proportion of New Zealand’s firearms that were once used for hunting are either no longer used or used for target shooting. This would suggest that hunters keep their firearms even though they may no longer hunt or shoot. Collectors are reported by Olmsted (1988) to buy and sell firearms frequently, therefore hunters will have disposed of fewer firearms than collectors. The age of the individual will also be associated with the type of recreational activity that the individual partakes in. Hunters should on average be younger as hunting generally requires more physical activity than collecting or target shooting and younger people typically are more physically able. Also, increasing age means more commitments that impinge upon the time that one has to spend on leisure activities (Groome et al., 1983). Due to the perception that firearms and hunting are male domains (Branscombe & Owen, 1991), men should be more likely to own firearms for hunting than women.

This investigation used a between-group approach by examining the personality differences between two samples of firearm owners. One group consisted of individuals who own firearms solely for hunting, the other group consisted of individuals who use firearms in a variety of activities. Diener and Kerber’s (1979) study found that there were minor personality differences between their matched sample and the firearm owners. One of these differences in personality was a ‘need for power’. Diener & Kerber state that hunters have a higher ‘need for power’ than non-owners, and this is demonstrated through the control they have over the life and death of their prey. McClelland (1975) claims that people who display the ‘need for power’ often belong to community organisations and hold offices. Winter (1973) states that need for the need for power is also displayed by individual’s who play team sports. Winter also states that the need for power is demonstrated by watching sports and reading sporting magazines. Hunters may therefore belong to community organisations, frequently buy sporting magazines, and play team sports. According to Simmons & Devlin (1982) and Groome et al. (1983), hunters typically hunt by themselves or in pairs. Simmons & Devlin (1982), and Groome et al. (1983) also claim that they are motivated to hunt because of aesthetical reasons (i.e. interacting with nature) and because it enables them to escape ‘civilisation’. Individuals who are ‘pure’ hunters (i.e. only own firearms for hunting) should therefore score on average higher than other licenced firearm owners who possess firearms for other reasons in terms of introversion, sensitivity, and self-reliance as measured by the 16PF.



One hundred questionnaires were distributed to firearm owners who were recruited through haphazard and snowball sampling techniques. To participate in the study an individual had to be a holder of a firearm licence. Sixty-eight questionnaires were returned (a response rate of 68%). Of the 68 questionnaires returned to the researcher, one contained a personality questionnaire that could not be used.

Sixty-five of the questionnaires were completed by males (95.6%) and three were completed by females (4.4%). The average age of the respondent was 38.5 years, with the most frequent age being twenty-three years. The minimum age of a licenced firearm owner in the survey was nineteen and the maximum age was sixty-three.


Firearm owners were recruited through advertising at firearm and sports stores, and at firearm ranges around Christchurch. Signs that displayed a contact telephone number, the researcher’s name, and the purpose of the study were placed in these areas. The researcher also approached firearm owners and enquired as to whether they would participate in the study. If they were willing to participate in the study they were given the research questionnaires and a stamped return-addressed envelope so that they could complete the task at their own leisure and mail it to the researcher. The sampling procedure initially constituted a haphazard sampling technique (Weisberg, Krosnick, & Bowen, 1989) where easily contacted individuals (who were eligible through possession of a firearm licence) were approached and asked if they would participate. Participants were also asked if they knew of anyone who could assist in the study. This was a form of referral sampling known as snowball sampling (Singleton & Straits, 1999; Biernacki & Waldorf, 1981). These two forms of sampling were particularly applicable for this study because of the current sensitive nature of firearm ownership in New Zealand. Participants were promised total anonymity for responding.

Research Instruments

IPAT’s 16 Personality Factor Test (1994)

The personality questionnaire used was IPAT’s 16 Personality Factor Test (1994), commonly known as the 16PF (see Appendix 1), published by the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (Cattell, Eber, & Tatsuoka, 1970). McLellan (1995) reports that the 16PF has high test-retest reliability coefficients (.84 to .91). The internal consistency of the 16PF’s constructs as measured by Cronbach’s coefficient alpha ranges from .64 to .85, which indicates high reliability. The standard error of measurement according to McLellan (1995) is acceptable given the nature and scope of the test.

The 16PF was used to examine introversion, sensitivity, and self-reliance between the two groups. These personality factors were chosen to be investigated by examining the literature for discussions concerning the motivations and common characteristics of hunters (Simmons & Devlin, 1982; Groome et al., 1983). Factors from the 16PF that were hypothesised to account for commonly cited qualities or behaviours of hunters in literature (such as hunting alone) were then assigned. For example, a preference by hunters to hunt alone could be explained by the personality factor "introversion" (located at the low end of the ‘extraversion’ scale). Introverted people, as measured by the 16PF (5th edition) tend to be less sociable, and are inclined to spend more time on their own (Russell & Karol, 1994). Hunters will score low on the scale of extraversion, thus indicating introversion. A common motivation to hunt that was reported by hunters in Groome et al.’s study was for aesthetical reasons. The 16PF states that people who score highly on factor ‘I’ or sensitivity as it is otherwise known, tend to be refined and more sentimental in their tastes, appreciating the aesthetic values as opposed to functionality and utilitarianism (Russell & Karol, 1994). Hunters should therefore score highly on this scale. Self-reliance is the third factor that the 16PF will be used to look specifically at. This factor tends to be concerned with the individual’s need to maintain contact or proximity with others. People who score highly on this factor tend to enjoy time by themselves and like to make decisions for themselves (Russell & Karol, 1994). Hunters place themselves in such an environment that demands that they make decisions for themselves. It is expected that hunters will score high on this factor.

The Lifestyle Questionnaire

A set of ‘lifestyle’ questions pertaining to social and personal variables (see Appendix 2) was constructed to investigate Lizotte, Bordua, & Whites (1981) path model for firearm ownership for sport. This questionnaire was based on Lizotte et al.’s study and comprised of twenty questions concerning the factors found in their study to be significant predictors of firearm ownership.

There were four sections to this questionnaire. The first section comprised of nine questions that focused on the age, sex, income, education, and residence of the participant. Most of the questions that participant’s were asked only required them to tick the appropriate box to respond. For example, the question that asked participants to report the number of years of secondary education that they had received required them to tick one of six boxes that ranged from zero to five. The same format was used to for the next question that inquired about the number of years of tertiary education that they had received. The responses for two questions were scored by adding together the values of the boxes ticked. This provided a single score for later statistical analysis. Other questions that inquired about childhood residence, current residence, military training, and sex only required the respondent to tick one of two boxes. To score these questions a value of one or two was assigned to each of the options. The value that was hypothesised to be a predictor of firearm ownership for hunting was awarded the higher value of two. For example, question nine that inquired whether the individual had military training was scored "no" = 1, and "yes" = 2.

The second section inquired about the participant’s childhood, their family, and their relationship with firearms. These questions followed the same format as the previous section. Participants were required to mark the boxes that were associated with family members who: currently used firearms and who had used firearms in the participant’s childhood. The final two questions in this section surveyed the frequency of hunting or shooting in the last 12 months. The reported frequency was the value used for statistical analysis.

Section three examined some of the social aspects of the participants in order to investigate the ‘need for power’. Purchase of sporting magazines and shooting magazines were separately examined on a three tier scale; never (scored as 0), occasionally (1), and often (2). Involvement with community organisations and team sports were both scored by ticking one of two boxes that were labelled "yes" (a score of 2) and "no" (1).

Section four of the questionnaire investigated the participant’s experience with firearms. The first two questions asked the age of the participant when they first fired a firearm and airgun, and the age of the participant when they first owned a firearm and airgun. The next question required the participant to indicate the types of firearms that they owned, and the purpose of owning those firearms. The type of firearms possessed was coded using a scale from zero to thirteen. High scores on this range of codes indicated that the firearms were used for hunting; low scores on the coding scale indicated firearms that were part of a collection or used for target shooting. This scale was constructed by analysing the types of firearms reported and the purpose of owning those firearms (Appendix 3).

The questions regarding the types of firearms no longer possessed used a selection of six boxes each of which designated a type of firearm.


Participants were informed of the purpose of the study and then asked if they wish to participate. If they agreed to participate then their part in the study was explained to them. The participants were told that they were required to fill out a personality questionnaire (the 16PF) and a lifestyle questionnaire. They were given an envelope that contained the two questionnaires, the 16PF test booklet, and set of instructions that explained the procedure of test administration. A contact telephone number was supplied to them so that they could communicate with the researcher if they so chose. On completing the questionnaires, the participants mailed back the materials supplied to them in the prepaid envelopes provided to the Department of Psychology.


This section initially reports the demographics of the total sample, including data on age, income, and area of residence. Figures on family familiarity with firearms, experience with firearms, and the number and types of firearms are then presented. The sample is then split into two groups for a statistical comparison of two the groups of firearm owners. These statistical analyses comprise of ANOVA, and tests of proportional variance (Bhattacharyya & Johnson, 1977). Personality factors are then examined using ANOVA to determine whether there is a significant difference between the two groups of firearm owners.

Demographics for the Sample of Firearm Owners

Table 1 shows the distribution of age amongst the sample of 68 firearm owners gathered for this study. The most dominant age group was the 20-25 year old age bracket which made up 22.1% of the total sample. The other age groups did not tend to differ greatly in terms of the distribution of participants.

Table 1. Age group distribution of New Zealand firearm owners.

Age group

of sample











Income was coded on a five-point scale, where 1= <20,000, 2= 20,001-30,000, 3=30,001-40,000, 4=40,001-50,000, and 5= >50,001. On this scale the average income was calculated as between NZ$20,000-$40,000. The modal income was NZ$30,000-40,001, and the responses ranged from below 20,000 to above 50,001. Table 2 shows the frequency distribution of the income levels amongst the sample of firearm owners.

Table 2. Frequency distribution of income levels of sampled New Zealand firearm owners.

Income Level (NZ$)

(All sampled

firearm owners;












The total number of post-primary years of education was coded by adding together the number of secondary and tertiary years of schooling. This score ranged from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 10. The mean number of years of post-primary schooling was 6.27; the modal number of years was 4.

Eighteen of the respondents (26.5%) grew up in a rural area and currently reside in a rural area. Fourteen of the respondents (20.6%) grew up in a rural area but now live in an urban area. Twenty-two (32.4%) of the respondents grew up in an urban area, but now reside in a rural district. Fourteen (20.6%) of the sixty-eight respondents spent their early years in an urban area and remain in an urban residency.

Family Experience and Exposure to Firearms

Chart one displays the frequency of family members reported to have used firearms when the respondent was a child.

Chart 1. Family members reported to have owned a firearm when the participant was a child.

In descending order, the family member most frequently associated with having a firearm when the participant was a child was the father (60.3%), uncle (52.9%), grandfather (20.6%), brother (16.2%), some other person (10.3%), grandmother (2.9%), mother (1.5%), and no one owned a firearm (19.1%). Percentages do not add to one hundred percent because participants were instructed to report who in their family owned a firearm - this may have meant more than one family member was reported to have owned a firearm.

When the participants were children, they had an average of 1.7 people in their family who owned firearms. Of the total number of people reported to have owned firearms while the respondent was a child, 97.5% were male.

Forty-six (67.6%) of the participants indicated that they had no military training. But in terms of years of experience with firearms, respondents on average had 26.2 years of handling firearms since they first fired a firearm, and had owned a firearm for an average of 20.4 years.

In descending order, the family member most frequently associated with having a firearm at the time of the survey was a brother (39.7%), uncle (36.8%) or father (36.8%), son (7.4%), wife (5.9%), grandfather (4.4%), sister (1.5%) or mother (1.5%), and no one owns a firearm (17.6%). These percentages do not add to one hundred percent because respondents were allowed to indicate more than one family member who currently owned a firearm. On average, the participant at the time of sampling had an average of 1.38 people in their family who owned firearms. Of the total number of family members reported to currently own firearms, 93.6% were male.

All sixty-eight participants had fired a firearm, but four did not currently own any. The average age of the participant when they first reported having fired a firearm was 12.3 years; the average age when the participant first fired an airgun was eleven years. The average age when the participant first owned a firearm was nineteen years; the average age when the participant first owned an airgun was approximately fifteen years. Of the sixty-eight participants, 8.8% had never used an airgun, 17.6% had used a firearm before using an airgun, 26.5% had used them both at the same age, and 47.1% had used an airgun before using a firearm. Forty-four percent of the sample had never owned an airgun, 8.9% had owned a firearm before owning an airgun, 14.7% had owned them both at the same age, and 32.4% had owned an airgun before owning a firearm.

The frequency of hunting and shooting in the past 12 months ranged from a zero to seventy-five excursions in the last twelve months. The average number of hunting and shooting trips in the last twelve months was 14.5. Over a twelve-month period, the average number of times that participants hunted by themselves was approximately 4.6 times; the average number of hunting and shooting trips that they went with others was 10 times.

Of the sixty-eight participants, three did not own firearms. The number of firearms possessed ranged from none to sixty, with a cumulative total of 398 firearms. The average number of firearms owned was 6.1. Fifty-four percent (54.4%) of the weapons listed by respondents were rifles, 17% were shotguns, 10.9% were handguns, 6.6% were MSSA’s. The remaining 11.1% were listed as other forms of firearms. Ninety-two percent of the sample reported that amongst the firearms they owned they possessed at least one rifle; thirty-six percent indicated that they only had a rifle (or rifles) and no other types of firearms. Forty-one percent reported to possess at least one rifle and at least one shotgun. Fifty-seven percent of the sample owned at least one shotgun; six percent of the sample reported as having at least one MSSA; 13.5% of the participants reported to have at least one handgun.

Twenty-nine percent of the participants reported that they belonged to a community organisation. Forty-four percent of the sample reported that they were involved in team sports.

When asked how often they purchased magazines that were concerned with shooting, 41.2% of the participants responded that they never bought this sort of magazine, 48.5% of the participants reported that occasionally they would buy these magazines, and 10.3% of participants responded that they regularly bought these magazines. In terms of other sporting magazines, 23.5% of respondents stated that they did not buy them, 67.6% of the respondents reported that they occasionally purchased these types of magazines, and 8.8% of respondents claimed to buy these types of magazines regularly.

The purpose reported by the respondents for owning and using their firearms was used to split the sample into two groups that participated in different recreational activities. Fifty-nine percent of respondents reported that they owned their firearms solely for hunting, while 17.6% reported that they owned their firearms for target shooting and hunting. Twelve percent of the respondents reported that they owned firearms for target shooting, hunting, and as part of a collection. Six percent responded that they owned their firearms for target shooting, the remaining 5.9% reported that they possessed firearms as part of a collection.

Splitting the Sample: An Analysis of Two Firearm-Owning Groups

To investigate differences between different types of firearm use, the 68 respondents were separated into two groups. It was initially hoped that two exclusive groups of hunters and non-hunters could be assembled; however the sample size proved too small to do this. The sample was divided into the following groups: those who owned and used firearms solely for the purpose of hunting (n=40); and, those who owned firearms for other reasons, or a combination of other reasons (that may have included hunting, but where hunting was not the primary reason for firearm ownership). The ‘other activities’ category consisted of target shooting (n=4), collecting (n=4), target shooting and hunting (n=12), hunting and target shooting and collecting (n=8). ANOVA and statistical tests of proportional difference were used to examine the variables predicted to have an effect on the purpose of firearm ownership. The variable "sex" was eliminated from analysis because 96.5% of the total sample was male. The size of the female sample was too small, making statistical analysis problematic.

Table 3 displays the means, standard deviation, and ANOVA results for age, income, and education for the two groups; hunters and ‘other activities’. The average age of the hunter sample (35.37 years) was 7.7 years younger than those firearm owners who were part of the ‘other activities’ sample (43.07 years). This difference of ages between the two groups was significant at the p<0.05 level.

Table 3. Distribution of demographics (age, income, and education) for the two licenced firearm owner groups known as ‘hunters’ and ‘other activities’.

Mean for hunters
Standard deviation
Valid n
Mean for other activities
Standard deviation
Valid n
F value
p value

Age  35.37  14.37  40  43.07  9.11  28  6.256  0.014*

Income  2.73  1.36  40  3  1.31  28  0.697  0.406

Education  6.75  2.46  40  4.5  2.45  28  3.566  0.063


The hunter group also had an average of 2.25 years more education than OA sample, this difference was not significant but it did come close to the p<0.05 level. The income level for the individuals who were in the OA sample was marginally higher than the average income level for the hunter group.

Table 4 displays the means for the variables that were selected to examine firearm socialisation in the past. The number of members in the family who owned or used firearms differed only slightly between the groups.

Table 4. Distribution of means for the two licenced firearm owner groups known as ‘hunters’ and ‘other activities’ for past firearm-socialisation variables.

Mean for hunters
Std dev
Valid n
Mean for other activities
Std dev
Valid n
F value
p value

Parents/ family ownership 


First fired a gun (age) 


First owned a gun (age) 



On average, individuals in the hunter group contained 1.6 family members who owned a firearm when they were a child. The OA group averaged slightly more than this; their mean number of familial members who owned a firearm when they were a child was 1.82. The age at when one first fired a firearm and the age at when one first owned a firearm was younger on average for both situations for the hunter group. Of these variables none were found to be significant, however the age when the respondent first fired a gun did achieve a p value of 0.087 which was close to the level of significance (p<0.05).

One-tailed tests of proportional difference were used to analyse childhood residence and military training. The level of significance was set at p<0.05 and Z scores had to be equal or greater than 1.64 to be classified statistically significant (Bhattacharayya & Johnson, 1977).

Forty-three percent of the hunters (n=40) and 50% of the sample that used firearms for other recreational activities (n=28) reported that they lived in a rural area when they were growing up. Comparison of these proportions indicated that this variable was not significant (Z=0.611, p<0.05).

Twenty-nine percent of the ‘other activities’ sample (n=28) and thirty-three percent of the ‘hunter’ sample (n=40) had undergone military training at some stage in their lives. The test of proportional difference concluded that this variable was also non-significant (Z=0.199, p<0.05).

Table 6 compares the averages for the firearm-related socialisation variables investigated in the study. Slightly more family members of hunters owned or used firearms than the family members of the individuals who used firearms for other activities.

Table 6. Distribution of means for the two firearm owner groups known as ‘hunters’ and ‘other activities’ for present firearm-socialisation variables.

Mean for hunters
Std dev
Valid n
Mean for

other activities
Std dev
Valid n
F value


No. of family

members who

shoot  1.73  1.26  40  1.29  1.08  28  2.239  0.139

Freq. shooting

alone  4.62  8.87  40  4.5  7.67  28  0.003  0.952

Freq. shooting

with others  9  15.29  40  11.32  16.17  28  0.362  0.549

Freq. buying

gun related

magazines  0.75  0.67  40  0.61  0.63  28  0.787  0.378

Type of guns

owned  11.85  2.82  40  9.25  4  28  9.926  0.0025**

No. of guns  2.68  2.25  40  10.39  13.19  28  13.22  0.0005**

No. of guns no

longer owned  1.25  2.12  40  2.68  3.42  28  4.513  0.037*

*p<0.05 **p<0.01

The OA group seemed to be slightly more active in their use of firearms. The average number of times that the individuals in the OA group had shot alone over the last 12 months was 4.5 times, only slightly lower than the hunters’ average of 4.62 times. However, the frequency of shooting with others was much higher for the OA group. Their average was 11.32 shooting excursions over a 12 month period, whilst the hunters average was 9 hunting excursions over a 12 month period. It should be noted that individual’s who participated in target shooting in the ‘other activities’ sample may have boosted this group’s average number of solo and accompanied shooting excursions over a 12 month period. This could explain why there is no significant difference between the two groups for these variables.

The hunter sample scored more highly on average than the OA sample on the scale that measured the frequency of buying gun-related magazines, but this difference was non-significant.

The type of gun that the hunter sample possessed was concentrated towards the upper end of the coding scale (see Appendix 3) that concerned shotguns and rifles (11.85). The firearms that the ‘other activities’ sample possessed were typically rifles and other types of firearms (9.25). This variable was found to be significant, achieving a p value of p=0.0025.

There was also a significant difference between the means of the two groups for the number of firearms owned. Hunters had on average had 2.68 firearms each, whilst the OA group had an average of 13.19 firearms. The OA group also had disposed of, on average, more than twice as many firearms than the hunter group.

A test of proportional difference was used to examine whether the area that the individual now lived in was significantly related to the type of firearm related activity they participated in. Forty percent of the hunter sample (n=40) and forty-two percent of the ‘other’ sample (n=28) currently resided in rural areas. Comparison of these proportions suggested that this variable was not significant (Z=0.233, p<0.05).

To examine the claim by Diener and Kerber (1979) that hunters have a higher ‘need for power’, the three questions that pertained to areas of behaviour that are associated with the need for power construct (McClelland, 1975; Winter, 1973) were examined. These areas were reported to be frequently buying sporting magazines, belonging to community organisations, and playing team sports. Table seven displays the results of the ANOVA used to analyse the frequency of buying sporting magazines.

Table 7. Distribution of means for the two licenced firearm owner groups known as ‘hunters’ and ‘other activities’ for the frequency of buying sporting magazines.

Mean for hunters
Std dev
Valid n
Mean for other activities
Std dev
Valid n
F value
p value

Freq. of



magazines  0.77  0.58  40  0.96  0.51  28  1.953  0.167


The other two areas associated with the ‘need for power’ were analysed using the test of proportional difference. Fifteen percent of the hunter sample (n=40) and 50% of the ‘other’ sample (n=28) reported as belonging to a community organisation. The one-tail test of significance found that this variable was significant at the p<0.05 level, the Z score for this variable being Z=3.117, well over the cut-off score of Z=1.64 (Bhattacharyya & Johnson, 1977).

Fifty percent of the hunter sample (n=40) and 36% of the ‘other’ sample (n=28) indicated that they were currently playing team sports. This variable was found to be non-significant (Z=1.168, p<0.05)

Table 9 displays the means for all the personality variables measured by the 16 PF. One of the individuals in the hunter sample failed to complete the personality questionnaire. In total, 67 cases (39 ‘hunters’ and 28 ‘other activities’) were used in the analysis of personality variables.

Table 9. Distribution of means for range of personality variables measured by the 16PF for the two licenced firearm owner groups known as ‘hunters’ and ‘other activities’.

Mean for hunters
Std dev
Valid n
Mean for other activities
Std dev
Valid n
F value
p value

A (Warmth)  4.36  1.78  39  5.29  2.07  28  3.844  0.054

B (Reasoning)  7.41  1.96  39  7.29  1.78  28  0.071  0.791

C (Emotional Stability)  5.90  1.55  39  6.29  1.82  28  0.881  0.351

E (Dominance)  5.82  2.21  39  6.32  1.94  28  0.923  0.340

F (Liveliness)  5.90  1.60  39  5.25  1.46  28  2.868  0.095

G (Rule-consciousness)  4.44  1.68  39  5.21  1.47  28  3.859  0.054

H (Social boldness)  5.82  1.85  39  5.71  1.94  28  0.052  0.821

I (Sensitivity)  4.10  2.14  39  5.21  1.99  28  4.671  0.034*

L (Vigilance)  5.15  1.50  39  5.71  1.76  28  1.971  0.165

M (Abstractedness)  5.28  1.89  39  5.00  1.52  28  0.426  0.516

N (Privateness)  5.82  1.88  39  5.54  1.77  28  0.393  0.533

O (Apprehension)  4.33  1.87  39  4.71  1.74  28  0.717  0.400

Q1 (Openness)  5.46  1.97  39  5.54  2.10  28  0.022  0.883

Q2 (Self-reliance)  5.82  1.45  39  5.86  1.99  28  0.007  0.931

Q3 (Perfectionism)  5.05  1.96  39  5.32  1.76  28  0.336  0.564

Q4 (Tension)  5.13  1.38  39  4.79  2.02  28  0.679  0.413

Extraversion  5.05  1.68  39  5.32  1.95  28  0.361  0.550

Anxiety  4.55  1.55  39  4.62  1.99  28  0.028  0.867

Tough-mindedness  6.56  2.19  39  5.88  2.20  28  1.585  0.213

Independence  5.71  1.99  39  6.11  1.59  28  0.778  0.381

Self control  4.83  1.69  39  5.39  1.52  28  1.935  0.169


The lowest possible mean score for a personality factor is zero which signifies one end of the personality factor’s continuum, while the highest score attainable is 10 which signifies the opposite end of the personality factor’s continuum. For example the factor labeled "I" ranges from zero which suggests that an individual is unsentimental and objective, through to 10 which suggests the opposite meaning; the individual is sensitive and aesthetic. The ‘normal’ range for all of the personality scores ranges between four and seven. This area is labeled the normal range because most people (68%) obtain scores in this zone. The variables of interest to this study were sensitivity (I), self-reliance (Q2), and introversion (measured by the 16PF as low extraversion). Sensitivity was the only variable that was found to be significant. The group dedicated solely to hunting scored lower on the extraversion scale (indicating a shift towards introversion) but this was not a significant trend (p=0.550). The mean scores for self reliance differed between the two groups by 0.04 (p=0.931), which is a non-significant difference.

Between the two groups there were some personality factors that almost reached the level of significance (p<0.05) but fell short of the cut-off by a small margin. These were: factor A (warmth), factor F (liveliness), and factor G (rule-consciousness). Factor A’s p value was p=0.054; just outside the p<0.05 cut-off. Factor A is concerned with the tendency of individuals to be warmly involved with people as opposed to the preference of an individual to be socially reserved. The hunter sample had a lower average (4.36) that the ‘other activities’ sample (5.29). This finding suggests that the individuals in the ‘other activities’ sample are more warm, outgoing, and attentive to others than the individuals in the ‘hunter’ group.

Factor F’s p value of p=0.095 was also close to the cut-off level. The hunter group averaged 5.90 on this factor, suggesting that they were more lively, animated, and attention-seeking than the ‘other activities’ sample whose mean was lower (5.25).

Along with the previously mentioned personality factors B and F, this personality factor was also not found to be significant, but came very close to attaining significance (p=0.054). The ‘other activities’ sample scored higher (5.21) on Factor G than the hunter sample (4.44), suggesting that those individual’s in the ‘other activities’ sample are more likely to perceive themselves as being strict followers of rules and principles.

A Comparison of the Total Firearm Licence Holding Sample and the 16PF Norms

All of the scores for each personality factor measured from the two groups were combined and averaged to provide a mean score for each personality factor that the 16PF examined. This provided a sample of sixty-seven licenced firearm holders. The mean score for each personality factor provided by the 67 licenced firearm holders was compared with the standard set of ‘norms’ provided by the producers of the 16PF. Table 10 displays the averages and the standard deviations for each personality score measured by the 16PF.

Table 10. Distribution of means for range of personality variables measured by the 16PF for the two licenced firearm owner groups known as ‘hunters’ and ‘other activities’.

Standard deviation
Valid n

A (Warmth) 


B (Reasoning) 


C (Emotional Stability) 


E (Dominance) 


F (Liveliness) 


G (Rule-consciousness) 


H (Social boldness) 


I (Sensitivity) 


L (Vigilance) 


M (Abstractedness) 


N (Privateness) 


O (Apprehension) 


Q1 (Openness) 


Q2 (Self-reliance) 


Q3 (Perfectionism) 


Q4 (Tension) 










Self control 


Other than the average personality score for factor B (reasoning), the average scores for all of the other personality factors fell within the range that the producers of the 16PF claim to be ‘normal’. This suggests that apart from a higher than average ability to reason, firearm owners sampled in this study were generally no different to the general population. However, it should be remembered that the ‘normal’ range is based on a sample of individuals from the USA, which may mean that the norms are not representative of the New Zealand population.


Evaluation of the Sampling Method

Included earlier in the method section was a brief mention of the sampling techniques used to gather participants for the study. These techniques were snowball sampling and haphazard sampling. The aim of the snowball method is to amass a sample through referrals made among people who share or know of others who possess the characteristics that are of interest to the researcher. This method of sampling is particularly appropriate when the study focuses on sensitive issues. Firearm ownership has, as previously mentioned in the rationale, become such an issue. Coleman (1958) claims that snowball sampling is well suited to sociological research because it allows for the sampling of participants or other units that naturally interact. Haphazard sampling, another form of non-probability sampling, was also utilised in gathering the sample. Haphazard sampling, states Weisberg et al. (1989) can generate results that are representative of a population when there are no sources of bias. This form of sampling was used to initiate the snowball sampling procedure. The sample obtained in this study showed similar trends and features to previous samples of New Zealand firearm owners found by Simmons & Devlin (1982), Groome et al. (1983), and an AGB McNair survey (in Thorp, 1997) suggesting that it was a representative sample.

Age, Income, Residence, and Family Experience with Firearms

Simmons & Devlin found that there was a large group of hunters who fitted into the 20-29 year age range (49.1% of their sample). A comparable trend was found in this study with the dominant group of firearm owners occurring in the 20-25 year age bracket. Henderson and Stagpoole’s (1974) survey also found that a young age range was dominant in their sample. They claim that the hunting population is constructed of predominantly young males (12-24 years of age). The average age of this sample was 38.5 years - seven years older than the active rifle owners in Simmons & Devlin’s study. This suggests that Thorp’s claim that the firearm owning rifle population is getting older may have some truth to it. However, the large number of firearm owners in the 20-25 year old age bracket does not wholly support this. A larger sample is required in order to establish whether the firearm population is replenishing itself with younger members, or if it is ageing as Thorp claims.

The most commonly reported income bracket was the NZ$30,0001-$40,000 per annum range. This finding also resembles the income level found by Henderson and Stagpoole (1974) who described the occupation of the average New Zealand firearm owner as primarily located in the middle income bracket. Wright & Marston (1975) also found that firearm ownership was a middle class phenomenon in their study of gun owners in the USA. Contradictory to the AGB McNair survey (in Thorp, 1997), the frequency of shooting was not found to be related to the income of the firearm owner.

As found in other New Zealand studies (Simmons & Devlin, 1982; Groome et al., 1983) and overseas studies (Wright & Marston, 1975; Ellison, 1991) the area most frequently inhabited by firearm owners was rural. The majority of firearm owners (79.4%) had spent time either growing up in rural areas or now lived in rural areas. Fifty-nine percent of firearm owners reported that they currently reside in a rural area, reaffirming previous findings about the predominance of hunting and firearm possession in rural regions of New Zealand (Thorp, 1997).

Male family members dominated in terms of firearm possession when the participant was a child. The most frequently reported firearm owner was the father of the participant, followed by an uncle and then grandfather. This suggests that Lizotte et al. (1981) are correct in their assumption that firearms are primarily socialised through family members. It would seem that socialisation occurs predominantly through male members of the family (it maybe this factor that makes the ownership of firearms almost exclusively a male domain). The data concerning the family members reported to currently own firearms supports this notion. The most frequently reported family members who owned firearms were a brother, the father, an uncle, some other family member (predominantly reported to be a cousin), and a son. The inclusion of ‘son’ and ‘other’ (who were predominantly reported to be cousins) exhibits a similar pattern to the trend seen when the participant was a child, supporting the notion that firearm socialisation occurs early in childhood through male members of the family (Olmsted, 1988; Lizotte et al., 1981). This is also supported by the age at which the participant first fired a firearm.

The number of female family members who currently owned firearms was reported to have increased from when the participant was a child. The biggest category of female firearm owners was reported to be the participant’s wife, then a sister, and then the participant’s mother. This suggests that females are now more frequently using firearms, possibly as a result of changes in sex role stereotypes (Brown, 1995).

A Sample Split ~ Hunters and Others

Included in this study was an examination of the variables from Lizotte, Bordua, & White’s (1981) sporting model of firearm ownership. These factors were analysed to determine if they could further discriminate between different forms of recreational firearm ownership for a sample of licenced New Zealand firearm owners. To achieve this the total sample of 68 firearm owners was split into two groups; 40 individuals who only used firearms for hunting and 28 individuals who used firearms for a variety of different recreational activities. The firearm owners were split in this manner due to limitations of sample size. Hunting was the dominant recreational activity participated in by the majority of the sample, while only a few others used firearms exclusively for target shooting or collecting. By combining these other types of recreational activities into one group to create a larger sample, it is possible that differences between these combined recreational activities have been overlooked. For example, target shooters are likely to shoot more often than firearm collectors are, but because they are grouped together this difference is negated.

It was predicted that military training would socialise the individual into some type of recreational firearm activity. However, there was no significant difference between the hunting sample and the ‘other activities’ sample suggesting that military training was not associated with these types of recreational firearm ownership. Reading shooting magazines was predicted to have a similar effect but it too was found to be non-significant.

Living in a rural area or an urban area as a child did not produce a significant difference in recreational activity. The result was the same for individuals who currently resided in rural areas now. This contradicts findings from Groome et al.’s (1983) survey which found that hunting was most popular with rural dwellers and individuals who had grown up in rural areas.

Of the variables examined from Lizotte et al.’s (1981) study, only one was found to be significant. This variable was the firearm owner’s current age. As predicted, the sample of individual’s who owned firearms solely for the purpose of hunting were significantly younger than the other sample of firearm owners who possessed firearms for different purposes. Ellison (1991) also found this stating that, "the probability of hunting declines with age". Similar sentiments were expressed by Simmons & Devlin (1982) who stated that as people aged physical decline and social commitments became more frequently reported reasons as to why they had discontinued hunting. As an individual’s age increased other commitments, such as a family, could surpass the gravity given to leisure activities such as hunting. Simmons & Devlin (1982) suggest that as an individual ages they may experience a decline in physical ability, which may also play a role in a hunter’s retirement from hunting.

On average the sample composed of individuals who used firearms for other activities was almost eight years (7.7 years) older than the hunter sample. We would expect that this ‘other activities’ sample not to be influenced to the same extent as the hunters by family commitments or physical decline because these activities do not demand the same time frame or physical effort that hunting requires. Collecting firearms is typically a domestic activity where firearms are stored in a lockable container, cupboard, or room in the house. Target shooting ranges are often located near cities and towns, requiring little logistic effort to reach the site where the range is. Both of these activities do not require the same investment in time and physical activity that hunting demands. Therefore it may be the case that as a firearm owning individual ages they become less likely to hunt, but more likely to use their firearms for different less physical and less time consuming activities. What this may mean is that many collectors and target shooters were initially hunters before age and its related factors (physical decline and other commitments) compelled them to give up hunting. Therefore, there should be no significant difference between the means for each of the firearm owning groups for the various sociological factors that relate to an individual’s early exposure and experience with firearms. Analysis of these factors (area of childhood residence, parents/family ownership, age when they first owned a firearm, and age when they first owned a firearm) between the two groups found that there were no significant differences.

Although non-significant, the age at when an individual first fired a firearm (p=0.087) did come very near to attaining the required level of significance (p<0.05). Failure to attain significance could be due to the way the sample was split, as there were combinations of firearm-related activities assembled into one group. Conversely, it could be because there is no significant difference between these samples’ averages of the individual’s age when they first fired a gun and their purpose for owning a firearm.

Differences in Firearms Possessed

Other variables that were found to be significantly different between the two samples concerned the actual firearms owned by the firearm-owners. The type of firearms that the hunter sample possessed was typically restricted to shotguns and rifles. The ‘other activities’ sample were more likely to have rifles and other types of firearms. This finding was predicted as target shooters and especially collectors are likely to have handguns, military style semi-automatic firearms, and ‘other’ guns that are either collectable items or specialised target-shooting firearms. Hunters are more inclined to have rifles and shotguns because these firearms are purpose-built to shoot a wide variety of game.

Unsurprisingly the ‘other activities’ sample had significantly more firearms than the hunter sample. It was predicted that the hunters would not have as many firearms as the individuals who participated in other activities. It was hypothesised that collectors (included in the ‘other activities’ sample) would have more firearms than hunters would because a collector would accumulate many firearms as part of their collection.

The collectors were initially predicted to have disposed of a higher number of firearms than the hunters due to the nature of their hobby. This was found to be true, there was a significant difference between the mean number of firearms no longer possessed. On average the ‘other activities’ sample had disposed of over twice as many firearms as the hunter sample. This further reaffirms Nugent’s (in Thorp) notion that hunters may actually be holding on to their firearms and not disposing of them even though the firearms may not be used.

"Need for Power"

McClelland’s (1975) concept of a ‘need for power’ was examined using questions that investigated certain areas that McClelland (1975) and Winter (1973) stated were frequently associated with an individual’s need for power. Diener & Kerber (1979) stated that hunting might satisfy an individual’s need for power because of the control they have over the life and death of their prey. One area of behaviour that was claimed by Winter (1973) to be related to an individual’s need for power was the purchasing and reading of sporting magazines. This was found to be non-significant for both groups. Another area where ‘need for power’ behaviour was alleged to be frequently exhibited is in the individual’s social activities, such as participation in community organisations and team sports (McClelland, 1975). Participation in team sports was found to be non-significant, however involvement in community organisations was found to differ significantly between the hunter sample and the ‘other activity’ sample. Fifty percent of the respondents in the ‘other activities’ sample indicates that they were involved in some type of community organisation, while only 15% of the hunter sample was involved with a community organisation. Forming a judgement on whether those individual’s in the ‘other activities’ sample have a higher need for power than those people in the hunter sample solely because they belong to community organisations is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, there was no significant difference for the other two areas that the ‘need for power’ behaviour was supposed to be exhibited in. Secondly, it is not known what types of community organisations respondents belonged to. Some respondents may have thought that gun clubs would fit into this category (this problem is largely due to the ambiguity of the question).

The question of age rears its head once more in this discussion. Ageing and its associated factors, namely changes in commitments and a decline in physical ability, were previously mentioned by Simmons & Devlin (1982) as popular reasons as to why hunting was discontinued. If those people in the ‘other activities’ sample had given up hunting as their primary firearm-related recreational activity and now concentrated on less physical activities such as collecting or target-shooting, then maybe they also gave up team sports due to their physical nature. The hunter group (who were on average younger), did play more team sports than the ‘other activities’ sample (who were on average older). Perhaps if the hypothesised ‘need for power’ construct cannot be satisfied through sporting activities (because of physical decline) the alternative is to join a community organisation. The ‘other activities’ sample did belong to significantly more community organisations than the hunter sample. Further investigation of this area is required to form any definitive conclusion.

Personality Characteristics

The personality characteristics of the two groups were found to differ significantly on one personality characteristic (factor I or ‘sensitivity’) measured by the 16PF. Three other personality factors came close to the cut-off required (p<0.05) to be considered as a significant finding; these were factors A (warmth), F (liveliness), and G (rule consciousness). In terms of the personality factor "I", the hunter sample scored significantly lower than the ‘other activities’ sample. However, both scores were located inside the region designated by the 16PF producers as the ‘normal’ range (where the majority [68%] of people score). The hunter sample may be interpreted as being more utilitarian, less sentimental, and more concerned with how things function than the ‘other activities’ sample (Russell & Karol, 1994). This finding contradicted the original prediction that hunters would be higher on this personality characteristic. Olmsted (1988) states that gun collectors often find pleasure in the ‘feel’ of their firearms. The satisfaction that collectors get from the perceived aesthetical value of firearms may indicate that collectors were actually more sensitive than was originally thought. Thus, the higher score by the ‘other activity’ sample could be explained by the individuals in that group who collected firearms. However, concluding this is problematic because not all individuals in the ‘other activities’ sample were collectors.

Introversion and self-reliance were predicted to be significantly different between the two groups, but neither achieved the required p level to attain significance. Closer to the p-level cut-off were the personality factors labelled warmth, liveliness, and rule-consciousness. Warmth (factor A) and rule consciousness (factor G) were extremely close to the cut-off of p<0.05, in both cases the p level was p=0.054. For both personality factors, the individual’s in the ‘other activities’ sample scored higher on average than the hunter sample. This indicates that the individuals in the ‘other activities’ sample were more comfortable working with others and working in situations that require intimacy with other people than those people in the hunter sample. They were also more inclined to emphasise the conformance to regulations and perceive themselves as strict followers of rules to a greater extent than those individual’s in the hunter sample. Those in the hunter sample were inclined to be enthusiastic, spontaneous, and enjoy being in the centre of activity more than participants from the ‘other activities’ sample.

Those individual’s in the ‘other activities’ sample consisted of handgun owners and collectors who held, amongst an array of firearms, fully automatic weapons. It is conceivable then that these individuals need to obey the law more stringently than other firearm owners do because they possess firearms that are restricted.

As a total sample, the firearm owners did not score outside of the ‘normal’ range on any factor other than factor B (reasoning). This suggests that this sample of firearm owners were much the same as the general population on all aspects of personality measured by the 16PF other than reasoning ability where they seem to be more able. Diener and Kerber’s (1979) study also found that their sample of firearm owners were essentially the same in terms of personality as the general population. However, the normal range for the 16PF was constructed in the USA (a New Zealand normal range was unavailable) and therefore should be treated with caution.

A New Model of Recreational Firearm Ownership in New Zealand

The lack of different experiences between the two groups and a general similarity between the two groups in terms of personality suggests that very little separates those individuals that hunt from those who own firearms for a variety of different reasons. It may be that the majority of firearm owners begin using firearms for hunting, but as they age they find that hunting is too difficult due to other commitments and a decline in physical ability. Those individuals who appreciate the sentimental or aesthetical worth of firearms, or wish to keep using firearms in a less demanding environment, shift the focus of their firearm-related recreational activity towards collecting or target shooting. Those individuals low in the personality factor ‘sensitivity’ who view firearms purely as functional tools for hunting may simply cease hunting and discontinue any other form of firearm-related activity. This is could be an explanation as to why such a large proportion of firearms previously used for hunting in New Zealand are currently unused (Nugent, in Thorp, 1997).

Figure 2. Model depicting transformation of firearm owners from hunter to firearm collector, target shooter, and inactive owner.


This sample of licenced firearm owners possessed firearms for several different types of recreational activity. Regardless of whether they owned a firearm solely for hunting or for a variety of other activities, their early experiences with firearms did not differ significantly. Both groups encountered similar firearm socialisation experiences, including the number of family members who owned firearms, and the age at when they first fired and first owned a firearm. Firearm socialisation tended to occur through male members of the family with the father of the participant tending to be the most frequently reported family member to own a firearm. Whether the individual lived in a rural or urban area had no affect on the recreational activity they now participated in, although most firearm owners either currently lived in a rural area or had spent time in a rural area as a child.

Age was the only variable from Lizotte et al.’s (1981) model that differed significantly between the hunter sample and the ‘other activities’ sample. It was suggested that those individual’s who were in the ‘other activities’ sample may have been hunters at one time before age and its associated factors (physical decline and other commitments) forced them to change the focus of their firearm-related recreational activity. Other variables that differed between the groups were the type of firearms that they possessed, the number of firearms they owned, and the number of firearms that they had disposed of.

One personality factor was found to differ between the two groups, this was sensitivity (factor I) as measured by the 16PF. The ‘other activities’ sample scored higher on this factor. The only variable that was outside the ‘normal’ range was the factor that concerned reasoning ability. On this factor the score for both groups averaged above the normal range suggesting that this sample of firearm owners had a higher than average ability to reason.

Perhaps most importantly it was found in this sample that there were differences between firearm owners who used firearms for different types of recreational activities. This was previously neglected by other studies that concentrated solely of firearm ownership for ‘sport’, but did not attempt to discriminate between forms of firearm-related recreation.

The differences found were argued to relate to the age of the individual, and were used to form model that hypothesised the transformation of the hunter into a firearm collector, target shooter, or inactive firearm owner.

It is suggested that future explorations into this area use larger samples of firearm owners who can be placed into exclusive firearm-activity groups (such as "target shooters" and "collectors"). The grouping of several different types of activities into one sample (the ‘other activities’ sample) made some areas of analysis problematic as results for this group could not be attributed solely to one form of recreational activity. Future studies may also wish to examine the socialisation of individuals into recreational firearm use. This study found that this was a process dominated by males, but there were signs that firearms were becoming more popular with females. Investigation of this subject may also indicate whether the annual number of new applicants for firearm licences is declining as Thorp (1997) suggested. It could also determine if hunting is becoming less popular while other forms of firearm-related recreational activity are becoming more popular.


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