Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan members in the US likely to oppose gun control (Reuters)

White racists in the US are most likely to own a gun and to oppose gun control measures, a study has found.

Published in the journal PLOS One, researchers looked at the most recent data from the North American National Election Study to look at the relationship between racism, gun ownership and attitudes to gun control among white people.

As well as finding white racists were more likely to own guns, they also found the level of racist attitudes correlated with likelihood of gun ownership.

The authors said that in 2011, there were 32,163 gun-related deaths in the US, including 11,101 homicides and 19,776 suicides.

They note that opposition to gun control is considerably stronger in whites than blacks, with white people twice as likely to own a gun than black people. They also say that, paradoxically, white people are considerably more likely to kill themselves with these guns than be killed by others.

Using the data from the election study, researchers looked at social variables, such as age, gender, education, income, location and political beliefs, as well as racial attitudes - they looked particularly at "symbolic racism", which is considered an explicit but subtle form of racism that replaced blatant racism, which openly says black people are amoral and inferior.

The NRA has voiced strong opposition to gun control (Reuters)

The researchers then compared this data with if they had a gun in their home, if they were opposed to policies banning guns and how they felt about permits to carry concealed handguns.

"After accounting for all explanatory variables, logistic regressions found that for each 1 point increase in symbolic racism there was a 50% increase in the odds of having a gun at home," the authors said.

"After also accounting for having a gun in the home, there was still a 28% increase in support for permits to carry concealed handguns, for each one point increase in symbolic racism."

Concluding, they said: "The results indicate that symbolic racism is associated with gun-related attitudes and behaviours in US whites. The statistics on firearm-related suicides and homicides in the US might reasonably be expected to convince US citizens that action on reducing gun ownership and use would be beneficial to their health.

"Yet, US whites oppose strong gun reform more than all other racial groups, despite a much greater likelihood that whites will kill themselves with their guns (suicide), than be killed by someone else. Black-on-black homicide rates would benefit most from gun reform, and, quite logically, blacks support these reforms even if whites do not.

"Symbolic racism appears to play a role in explaining gun ownership and paradoxical attitudes to gun control in US whites. In other words, despite certain policy changes potentially benefitting whites, anti-black prejudice leads people to oppose their implementation."