American Gun Owner Survey Results

Georgetown University conducted a large survey of 54,000 adults. Learn the true nature of American Gun Owners today.

An online survey conducted by Centiment was based on a representative sample of about 54,000 adults, 16,708 of whom were gun owners. Georgetown University political economist William English commissioned the survey as part of a book project and presented its major findings in a paper available on the Social Science Research Network.

Click to see the Key Findings

  • Overall adult gun ownership rate estimated by the survey of 32 percent is consistent with research by Gallup and the Pew Research Center. This rate varies across racial and ethnic groups: about 25 percent among African Americans, 28 percent among Hispanics, 19 percent among Asians, and 34 percent among whites. Men accounted for about 58 percent of gun owners. Gun ownership rates ranged from about 16 percent in Massachusetts and Hawaii to more than 50 percent in Idaho and West Virginia.
  • Americans own some 415 million firearms, including 171 million handguns, 146 million rifles, and 98 million shotguns.
  • About 30 percent of respondents reported that they had ever owned AR-15s or similar rifles. 48 percent reported having ever owned magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. The survey suggests that up to 44 million AR-15-style rifles and up to 542 million magazines with capacities exceeding 10 rounds are already in circulation.
  • Two-thirds of the respondents who reported owning AR-15-style rifles said they used them for recreational target shooting, half mentioned hunting, and a third mentioned competitive shooting. 62 percent said they used such rifles for home defense, and 35 percent cited defense outside the home.
  • Owners of magazines holding more than ten rounds cite recreational target shooting (64 percent) as the most common, followed by home defense (62 percent), hunting (47 percent), defense outside the home (42 percent), and competitive shooting (27 percent).
  • Thirty-one percent of the gun owners surveyed said they had used a firearm to defend themselves or their property, often on multiple occasions. As in previous research, the vast majority of such incidents (82 percent) did not involve firing a gun, let alone injuring or killing an attacker. In more than four-fifths of the cases, respondents reported that brandishing or mentioning a firearm was enough to eliminate the threat.
  • About half of the defensive gun uses identified by the survey involved more than one assailant. Four-fifths occurred inside the gun owner’s home or on his property, while 9 percent happened in a public place and 3 percent happened at work. The most commonly used firearms were handguns (66 percent), followed by shotguns (21 percent) and rifles (13 percent).
  • Based on the number of incidents that gun owners reported, guns are used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year.

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