Most People Own Guns for Protection

There are endless polls about crime and public attitudes; some are confusing and counterintuitive.

Previous opinion polls had the principle reason for owning firearms as hunting or target shooting, CNN. That never made sense to me as I watched skyrocketing numbers as to legal gun checks throughout the years.

Yes, violent crime has undergone some remarkable reductions over the last two decades except for recent years, Crime in America, but polls indicated that most Americans felt that crime was increasing, Crime in America. There was a remarkable difference suggesting that most Americans didn’t see, feel or touch those reductions.

In 2013 there were roughly 357 million firearms in the U.S. — 40 million more guns than people per The Washington Post. If the majority of those firearms were being used for hunting purposes, wildlife would be extinct.

But the data now indicates that the primary reason for owning a firearm is protection from a world that seems dangerous regardless of what crime statistics indicate.

The link below for Pew provides an interesting overview of gun ownership. I’m only mentioning a few variables that pertain to perceptions of safety.

Forty-two percent of Americans live in a household with a gun per Pew. With 126 million US households and 357 million firearms, my guess is that the actual number of households having firearms is higher than offered regardless of multi-gun owning families.

Eleven percent (beyond the 42 percent) don’t own a gun but live in a household that has a gun, 72 percent have fired a gun and 59 percent say that their friends own guns.

It’s also my guess that the percent having guns loaded and at the ready (40 percent) is higher and has implications for law enforcement and parole and probation personnel, as does the 26 to 41 percent who carry.

To some, firearm ownership is a source of pride; to others, it’s something difficult to admit. The degree of gun ownership in America is complex, immense and continues to unfold.

The American commitment to firearms won’t diminish until they believe that their world is safer.


Protection tops the list of reasons for owning a gun

Two-thirds of gun owners say protection is a major reason they own a gun. By comparison, about four-in-ten (38%) cite hunting as a major reason and three-in-ten cite sport shooting, including target shooting, trap and skeet. Fewer point to a gun collection (13%) or to their job (8%) as being central to why they own a gun. To be sure, for many gun owners, these reasons overlap: 44% offer more than one major reason for owning a gun.

Roughly one-in-seven adults who own or have owned a gun (15%) say they have fired or threatened to fire a gun to defend themselves, their family or their possessions.

Regardless of the reasons for owning a gun, most gun owners don’t think their having a firearm is public business, but they also aren’t going out of their way to hide the fact that they own a gun. Eight-in-ten gun owners say they don’t mind if other people know they own a gun, but they don’t set out to tell them; 14% say they’d rather other people not know that they have a firearm, and 6% actively do want others to know.

For many gun owners, a gun is often close at hand

Roughly four-in-ten gun owners (38%) say there is a gun that is both loaded and easily accessible to them all of the time when they’re at home. Men are especially likely to have a loaded gun at the ready: 43% of male gun owners vs. 29% of women who own guns say a loaded gun is always easily accessible.

Overall, about seven-in-ten gun owners say they own a handgun or a pistol (72%), while 62% say they own a rifle and 54% own a shotgun. Handguns are more common among those who own a gun for protection.

Among those who own a handgun, about one-in-four (26%) say they carry their gun with them outside of their home all or most of the time, a share that rises to 41% among those who think of their local community as unsafe.



Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University.