Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Americans and the Prevalence of Gun Ownership

Updated October 2017

One of the problems with getting accurate gun ownership statistics in the United States is that no agency keeps complete statistics on the prevalence of gun ownership.  As well, pro-gun advocates are understandably keen on keeping gun ownership data private because of fears that future legislation may lead to confiscation.  A recent study published in the journal "Injury Prevention" does provide us with an interesting attempt at getting an accurate idea of the prevalence of gun ownership in the United States.

Dr. Bindu Kalesan of the Department of Epidemiology and his fellow researchers assessed gun ownership rates by using data from a nationally representative sample of 4000 American adults.  These adults were from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The authors then measured social gun culture using four questions that assessed whether an individual's:

1.) social circle think less of them if they did not own a gun?

2.) family thinks less of them if they did not own a gun?

3.) social life with their family involves guns?

4.) social life with their friends involves guns?

By answering "yes" to any of the above questions, the authors determined that the individual respondent was exposed to gun culture.  Of the 4000 individuals, 528 or 13.7 percent reported a "yes" answer to at least one of the social gun culture questions and 0.8 percent reported a "yes" to all four of the social gun culture questions.

The authors measure gun ownership status by using six questions that queried the status of gun ownership:

1.) did the respondent own a gun?

2.) was the gun a gift?

3.) was the gun bought before or after the year 2000?

4.) was the gun used for hunting?

5.) did the individual attend gun safety classes?

6.) did the owner advocate for responsible gun ownership?

By answering yet to any of these six questions, the individual was classified as a gun owner.

Here is a graphic showing the measure of gun ownership status:

Here is a graphic showing the gun ownership rates for each state:

Among all 4000 respondents, the prevalence of gun ownership rates by state varied from a low of 5.2 percent in Delaware to 61.7 percent in Alaska compared to a national gun ownership prevalence of 29.1 percent.  It is interesting to look at the wide state- and region-level variation in gun ownership rates by state.  In the northeast, gun ownership rates vary from 5.8 percent in Rhode Island to 28.8 percent in Vermont.  In the midwest, gun ownership rates vary from 19.6 percent in Ohio to 47.9 percent in North Dakota.  In the south, gun ownership rates vary from 5.2 percent in Delaware to 57.9 percent in Arkansas and in the west, gun ownership rates vary from 20.1 percent in California to 61.7 percent in Alaska.  As you can see, on average, gun ownership was lowest in the northeast states and highest in the southern states.

The authors also looked at the demographic characteristics of gun ownership.  Predominantly, gun owners were non-black males older than 55 years of age with annual income greater than $25,000 annually and were generally either married or living with a partner.  Not surprisingly, exposure to social gun culture was closely associated with gun ownership.  The link between the two suggests that there is a strong mutually reinforcing mechanism as people adopt the beliefs, values and social behaviours that are most acceptable to those who are in their community.


  1. The Department of Epidemiology? Really now, the exercise of a right is NOT a disease, no matter how uncomfortable you are with guns. Also 4000 respondents from all 50 states is hardly an amount that gives a respectable statistic. I think ownership rates are considerably higher. It is just that many people won't admit to having one for fear of interference from the government.

    1. I don't see any need for an individual to own:
      1. A pistol, especially a high powered affair.
      2. An assault rifle.
      3. A standard hunting rifle with a capacity of more
      than 4 rounds.

  2. "In the south, gun ownership rates vary from 5.2 percent in Delaware to 57.9 percent in Arkansas."

    Really? You make Delaware seem like it's right next to Arkansas. Deleware is smack dab in big urban left wing land, from the Washington D.C. Beltway all the way up to Boston and beyond. We have NOTHING in common with Deleware down here in Mississippi and we are proud of it.

    1. I'm merely pointing out how widely variable gun ownership rates are in the United States and have said nothing about the geographic significance of the data. I do realize that there are significant differences in gun culture from state-to-state, a fact that is made quite clear in the study.

    2. Really? that was your inference from that data? Do you know people can hear you?

  3. Guns are not supposed to be associated with your living standard and a status symbol for you. They are supposed to be used for your safety and safeguard in case your survival is endangered. Anyone who associates his life with gun for his standard must go to a training center and also look at the lives of soldier. They know about the perfect use of gun... they are not meant for showoff.
    Mass License To Carry Class

  4. The first two questions on the social circle are strange:

    1.) social circle think less of them if they did not own a gun?

    2.) family thinks less of them if they did not own a gun?

    I have lived in both pro-gun and anti-gun states. In the pro-gun states, I have never heard of anyone being looked down upon for not owning a gun. In the anti-gun states, it is very common to be looked down upon, feared, and even considered violent if you admit to owning a gun. These questions should have been reversed and the answers may have been revealing.

  5. The enormous guns in America is because in America guns are associated with the status symbol of people. They can easily join any Firearms safety training classes and get the guns of their own with ease. This has simply increased the crime rate of people out there in America since they don't know about the cons of using that killer.