Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William B. Bankston


The focus of this research is on the association of the availability of firearms for protection and fear of crime. More specifically, the study explores the relationship of firearms to persons' sensitivity to perceived risk of criminal victimization. The data used were drawn from a state-wide survey of Louisiana residents conducted in 1984. The research was directed by the long-standing inability of researchers to identify any relationship between guns and fear of crime, although it has long been assumed that such a relationship does exist. This study used the innovative strategy of examining fear of crime levels in their relationship to perceived risk of victimization. It was argued that the influence of guns on fear would appear in their effect on sensitivity to perceived risk. Two measures of firearms availability were used; (1) whether or not persons had guns present in their household, and (2) whether or not persons carried guns with them, for purposes of protection, when they left home. The results indicate that sensitivity to risk of victimization is associated, at least for some types of offenses, with the availability of firearms for protection. It was also found that this association varies, both in intensity and direction, by the measure used of firearms availability and by persons' socio-cultural and experiential characteristics. It was argued, in conclusion, that further research specifically designed to study firearms and fear of crime is needed, and some theoretical directions for such research are offered.