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Trigger Points: Assessing the Causes of Gun Desirability in America


This study will develop a novel measure, gun desirability. With this measure, the study will evaluate social theory via experimental designs and policy effectiveness via a longitudinal research design.




Scholars currently wrestle with sampling issues and causal heterogeneity when interrogating the causes of gun ownership. Unlike gun ownership, gun desirability can be measured in both real-world and experimental contexts which allows us to ask better questions about gun ownership, social theory, and policy.


This dissertation will feature three empirical chapters that demonstrate how a new measure of gun desirability can resolve debates in the gun acquisition literature and illuminate how social and legal policies affect the underlying desire for guns.

The first empirical chapter defines and operationalizes the measurement of gun desirability. The second empirical chapter uses an experimental survey design with over 8,400 participants to assess how different vignettes, including socioeconomic duress, affect gun desirability in the U.S. The third empirical chapter longitudinally assesses how the enrollment in, and completion of, court-mandated anger management, violence, and safety courses affect the gun desirability of participants. 450 participants will be recruited from courts in six randomly-selected Southern Californian counties.


Gun desirability is a focal concern for regulating firearm access among people connected to the criminal legal system, and gun desirability is a likely a better measure than binary questions (yes or no) about intent to purchase. This work will inform scholars and policymakers as they assess policy options to reduce desire for—rather than just legally prohibit—gun ownership.

Investigator Bio

Justin Lucas Sola is a doctoral candidate at UC Irvine's Criminology, Law and Society department. His research focuses on socioeconomic inequality and how people seek security, with active projects on 1) gun desirability, 2) how carceral contact affects inequality, 3) why people call the police, 4) the epistemics of mixed-methods research, and 5) how Americans consume security through training, equipment, and group membership.

Grant Amount
Award Type
University of California, Irvine
Justin Lucas Sola
Expected Completion Date
July 2023
Focus Areas
Policy Analysis