To learn more about private ownership and use of firearms by American adults, the National Institute of Justice sponsored a nationally representative telephone survey in 1994 to obtain information on the size, composition, and ownership of the private gun inventory; methods of and reasons for firearms acquisition; storage and carrying of guns; and defensive use of firearms against criminal attackers.
In 1994, 44 million Americans owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Although there were enough guns to provide every U.S. adult with one, only 25 percent of adults actually owned firearms; 74 percent of gun owners possessed two or more. Of handgun owners, 68 percent also possessed at least one rifle or shotgun. Gun ownership was highest among middle- aged, college-educated people in rural areas. Whites were substantially more likely to own guns than blacks, and blacks were more likely to own guns than Hispanics. The most common reason for owning firearms was recreation, followed by protection against crime. About 60 percent of gun acquisitions involved federally licensed dealers. About 211,000 handguns and 382,000 long guns were stolen in noncommercial thefts in 1994. Slightly more than half of all privately owned firearms were stored unlocked; 16 percent of firearms were stored unlocked and loaded. In 1994, about 14 million adults carried a firearm in their vehicles or on their person for protection. 17 notes and 8 exhibits
Date Published: January 1, 1997