The vast majority of gun owners say that guns make them feel safer and cite protection as the main reason they own a gun. At the same time, a majority of people who do not own guns say that having a gun in the house would make them feel less safe. A new report by the Pew Research Center shows the many stark differences in opinion that divide gun owners and non-gun owners.
Basically half of all gun owners now cite protection as the primary reason they own a gun. Ten years ago that number was 26 percent. Hunting, the second largest reason, has dropped from 49 percent to 32 percent.
Six in ten of people in households without guns claim that having a gun around would make them feel uncomfortable. Why? They are concerned about safety and fear potential tragedies that could stem from gun accidents.
Unsurprisingly, Americans as a whole are conflicted over whether removing guns would make the country safer. 58 percent of Americans fear that new gun control laws would make it more difficult for people to protect their families while 54 percent feel that stricter laws would reduce the number of deaths caused by mass shootings. Two-thirds of people who do not own guns feel stricter gun control laws would reduce the number of deaths in mass shootings, while only one-third of gun owners feel the same.
People who own guns are overwhelmingly white and male: 82 percent of gun owners are white and 74 percent are male. 61 percent of gun owners are white men, whereas white men are only 32 percent of the broader US adult population.
Younger people are a little less likely to own a gun than older Americans. Only 16 percent of people under 30 personally own a gun versus 30 percent of people 50 and over. Yet even among households without guns, younger people are more comfortable with the thought of having a gun around.
Among adults, 37 percent have a gun in their household. There is a sharp gender gap among gun ownership. 37 percent of men own guns versus only 12 percent of women. Women cite protection as their main reason more than men, but they do not enjoy owning guns as much as men do.
Despite the prevalence of guns in the national discourse, gun ownership has likely gone down over the last 20 years. Both the Pew Research Center and the General Social Survey show a steady decline in gun ownership. But this number is not certain, for there is no record anywhere of how many Americans own guns, and not all polls show the same decline. The Gallup Organization suggests that the number of gun owners has actually remained consistent.
There is no consensus in the US about whether guns are safe, but whether or not you own a gun is a large indicator of what your answer to that question might be.