12 Interesting Statistics on Gun Ownership Everyone Should Know

Compared to other countries, the United States has one of the highest gun ownership rates. In the United States Constitution, people are given the right to keep and bear firearms, and many Americans practice this freedom. From recreational use to protection, firearms are used for many different reasons and by people from all walks of life. The firearms industry, including manufacturing and sales, plays a pivotal role in the American economy by providing jobs and a continual revenue stream. The gun industry is fascinating, resulting in many interesting statistics and facts that few are aware of.

1. In 1972, 43% of households had 1 or more firearms, and in 2019, approximately 37% of households had 1 or more firearms. (Source: Statista)

In 1972, 43% of American households owned 1 or more firearms, but by 2019, the rate of household firearm ownership had dropped slightly to 37% of households owning 1 or more firearms. Today, the United States lives in a faster-paced society with people not having as much free time for recreational activities including hunting and skeet shooting, which are two popular recreational activities involving firearms.

2. Around 67% of gun owners say protection is their main reason for purchasing a gun. (Source: Pew Research)

Among gun owners, protection is the most popular reason for purchasing a gun. Even with technological advances in security systems and video surveillance, many still opt to own a gun for protection. Despite geographical and economic differences, gun owners reside in all parts of the United States. Over 2/3 of gun owners cite “protection” as a reason for gun purchases; the next most popular reason driving gun purchases is hunting (1/3 of gun owners).

3. Out of gun owners, over 70% have a handgun or pistol. (Source: Pew Research)

Those not familiar with firearms might assume all guns are the same, but there are many different types of firearms. 72% of owners have a handgun or pistol, 62% own a rifle, and 54% own a shotgun. Handguns are practical for carrying a firearm during everyday activities which attribute to their popularity, but they can also be used for sport shooting. On the other hand, rifles and shotguns are used primarily for hunting and recreational purposes.

4. In the United States, Delaware has the lowest state percentage of gun ownership at 5.2%, and Alaska has the highest state percentage of gun ownership at 61.7%. (Source: CBS News)

While all states have gun owners, ownership rates across states differ at staggering rates. With the national average of state percentages of gun ownership at 29.1%, Delaware has the lowest state percentage of gun ownership at 5.2% while Alaska has the highest state percentage of gun ownership at 61.7%. Much of Alaska’s gun ownership can be attributed to the amount of hunting and recreational activities; Alaska is known for its outdoor living and wildlife. In addition, Alaska has no statewide registration of firearms which eases the gun ownership process.

Besides Delaware, another state with gun ownership rates under 10% is Rhode Island (5.8%). Other states with gun ownership rates over 50% include Montana (52.3%), Wyoming (53.8%), West Virginia (54.2%), Idaho (56.9%), and Arkansas (57.9%). In general, southern and midwestern states have higher gun ownership rates than northeastern states. However, there are a few anomalies like Hawaii which has a 45.1% gun ownership rate.

5. Less than 20% of gun owners are members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). (Source: Business Insider)

Around 1 in 5 gun owners (19%) belong to the National Rifle Association, but the NRA is one of the most influential lobbyists for gun rights. The NRA also provides educational training on gun training and misconceptions about gun usage. When people think of guns, many automatically think of the NRA, but surprisingly, the majority of gun owners are not members of the organization.

6. In the United States, 33% of people over the age of 65 own a gun while only 19% of people between the ages of 18 to 29 own a gun. (Source: Gallup)

Among gun owners, age is an important factor in ownership rates. While 33% of Americans over the age of 65 own a gun, only 19% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 own a gun. Gun ownership rates tend to climb as people age for several different reasons. People who have spent decades working usually have more discretionary income to spend on expenses like guns including the actual gun, training, upkeep/maintenance, and accessories. Another reason is people over the age of 65 were alive when gun ownership rates were higher (ex. 43% in 1972 vs. 37% in 2019) and are more familiar with guns. In addition, people of older age may not be able to physically protect themselves as much as younger people can — owning a gun gives them added protection.

7. 36% of married individuals are gun owners while only 23% of single individuals are gun owners. (Source: Gallup)

In the United States, 36% of married individuals own a gun, but only 23% of single individuals own a gun. With the possibility of two incomes, married individuals have more discretionary income to spend on guns and related expenses. In addition, married individuals are more likely to have children than single individuals which means that they might want guns as an added measure of protection.

8. Over ¾ of police officers use a backup gun while on duty. (Source: Police Magazine)

Officers are allowed by law enforcement agencies to carry more than one handgun while on duty, and a protection pistol off duty.

9. Around 32% of police officers use a 9mm caliber handgun as a backup. (Source: Police Magazine)

Approximately 32% of police officers use a 9mm caliber making it the most popular caliber choice for law enforcement backup handguns. A 9mm caliber is beneficial for law enforcement because of its versatility, reduced recoil, and performance accuracy. After the 9mm, the next popular ammunition choice is the .38 which is used by around 20% of police officers.

10. In 2017, over 8.3 million firearms were manufactured in the United States. (Source: Statista)

The manufacturing of firearms has a significant impact on the American economy. Over 8.3 million firearms were manufactured in 2017, providing jobs and stimulating earnings for the American economy. By manufacturing firearms in the United States, the quality and manufacturing products can be held to American standards.

11. In 2019, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recovered 4,432 firearms at US airport screenings. (Source: Statista)

In 2019, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recovered 4,432 firearms during airport screenings. The TSA does not allow passengers to board an airplane with any type of firearms, ammunition, or replicas. However, passengers can carry firearms in checked luggage, but they must be unloaded and stored in a locked, hard-sided container that has been declared to authorities. 

12. From 1999 to 2018, there has been a 44% drop in preventable gun-related deaths. (Source: Injury Facts)

During an almost 20 year span, the United States saw a 44% drop in preventable gun-related deaths. The decreased rate is due to educating and training people on proper gun storage, usage, and techniques. It is vital for people who keep guns at home to store them in a secure location that is not easily accessible; for households with children (either residing or visiting), guns and ammunition should always be kept in a locked area.  Only when mature enough to hand the responsibility, students should be taught gun safety practices so they are aware of proper gun handling and shooting techniques. As proper education and training continue to happen, the rate of preventable gun-related deaths will continue to decline.

Gun ownership is an integral part of American culture and will continue to be fundamental to society. In the United States, gun ownership has been around for centuries, and there is no doubt that it will continue to be essential for many American citizens. From law enforcement officers to hunters to everyday individuals looking for protection, owning a firearm will always be a common occurrence in American society.