June 4, 2013

A minority of Americans own guns, but just how many is unclear


More than a third of Americans say they or someone in their household owns a gun.

There are by various estimates anywhere from 270 million to 310 million guns in the United States — close to one firearm for every man, woman and child. But in point of fact, only a minority of Americans own guns.

Gun ownership is one of the hardest things for researchers to pin down (as the Pew Research Center’s Michael Dimock, among others, discusses here). A Pew Research Center survey conducted in February found that 37% of households had an adult who owned a gun — 24% said they owned a gun, and 13% said someone else in their household did.

The Pew Research Center’s results generally track with the General Social Survey: When the GSS asked last year if people had a gun in their home or garage, 34% said they did.

Though other surveys (such as this one from Gallup) have found somewhat higher self-reported ownership rates, by and large they indicate that less than half of Americans own a gun.

The Pew Research and GSS surveys both have found declining gun-ownership rates over time. In 1973, for example, when the GSS first asked about gun ownership, 49% reported having a gun or revolver in their home or garage. Read more



Category: Daily Number

Topics: Gun Control

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.

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  1. Voice of Reality3 weeks ago

    Numbers game?
    Everyone in my family owns some sort of firearm. None of us has ever answered yes to any pol for fear that person is casing our property for a criminal act. Firearm ownership is a personal thing and it’s no ones business but our own. It is comparable to asking a husband if he has ever kissed another girl while married..the answer is always no.
    It is a fact though that in Alaska there is nearly 100% gun ownership and the average Alaskan has five weapons. In Indiana it is estimated that 60% of the population of legal age own a weapon. Special note. The AARP and NRA are the peoples voice, vigorous voters and Grandpa is not a terrorist..

    1. Mike1 week ago

      I seriously doubt that nearly 100% of Alaskans own guns. I’m in Alaska quite often for work and have about a dozen friends who live in Anchorage, and none of them own a gun… Perhaps you’re talking about Alaskans who live outside the larger population areas. Larger cities generally have a lower percentage of gun owners, and Anchorage is the 63rd largest city in the USA. I think 50-60% gun ownership would be a more realistic figure.

  2. Steve3 months ago

    What kind of a moron would answer this survey truthfully, unless you are one of the ones who own no guns? Even the non-owners might have reason to obfuscate for THEIR own reasons.

    1. Voice of Reality3 weeks ago

      Reply to Steve.
      The same moron that leaves money on the kitchen table with unlocked doors.
      One better- he tells everyone he doesn’t trust banks and keeps all his money and gold at home!!

  3. Russ4 months ago

    I believe the number is going down because people don’t want to tell the government that they own guns.
    The amount of guns bought in 2013 were the most guns ever bought in history.
    There are a ton of new gun owners.

  4. ken woolsey5 months ago

    I am wondering what percentage of the 70% of adults who support striking children as an acceptable form of discipline are also gun owners or members of NRA

    1. Paul5 months ago

      What does it matter if they own guns or are in the NRA? I know folks that own guns that never raise a hand to their children, and the same goes for the folks I know that don’t own any guns. The vice is versa as well. Owning a firearm doesn’t mean you support physical discipline of children.

    2. C in the D4 months ago

      I am wondering what percentage of people who use illegal drugs are also liberal or voted for Obama?

      Oh wait, that’s completely irrelevant to the article… As is your comment.

    3. frank4 months ago

      Studies show that individuals who use pot, cocaine, alcohol, meth, heroin etc. have almost ten times (i.e., almost 1,000%) the magnitude of abusing children and breaking significant laws (stealing, assaulting etc.). It has been conclusively demonstrated that more than 85% of violent crime is associated with drug and alcohol abuse.