May 9, 2013

Why Own a Gun? Protection Is Now Top Reason


The number of gun owners who say that protection is their top reason for having one has risen 22 percentage points since 1999.

The vast majority of gun owners say that having a gun makes them feel safer. And far more today than in 1999 cite protection – rather than hunting or other activities – as the main reason they own guns.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in February found that nearly half of gun owners (48%) volunteer that the main reason they own a gun is for protection; just 32% say they have a gun primarily for hunting and even fewer cite other reasons, such as target shooting. That’s 22 percentage points higher than 1999 when 26% cited protection as the biggest factor and 49% said they owned a gun mostly for hunting.

About a quarter of Americans (24%) say they personally own a gun, rifle or pistol; another 13% say another person in their household has a gun. A large percentage of gun owners (79%) say having a gun makes them feel safer. At the same time, nearly as many (78%) say that owning a gun is something they enjoy.

Most Americans (57%) say they do not have a gun in their household. Most of the non-gun owners (58%) say that they would be uncomfortable having a gun in 3-12-13 #3their homes; 40% say they would be comfortable having a gun. Read more

  1. Photo of Sara Kehaulani Goo

    is a former senior digital editor at Pew Research Center.