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Guns in America: Results of a Comprehensive National Survey on Firearms Ownership and Use

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1996
148 pages
The National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms took place during November and December 1994 to gather information on the size, composition, and ownership of the gun stock in the United States; how and why guns are acquired; gun storage and carrying; and the defensive use of firearms against criminal attackers.
This national telephone survey used a list-assisted random-digit-dialing sampling method and produced a response rate of 44 percent or 59 percent, depending on the definition used. Results revealed that an estimated 192 working firearms are in private possession; about one-third of these are handguns. At least 40 percent of all handguns are semi-automatics. Only about 1 in 6 handguns have barrel lengths shorter than 3 inches. About one-fourth of adults personally own a firearm; this finding includes 42 percent of men and 9 percent of women. Gun ownership may be less popular among younger adults than among those ages 51 or older. Gun ownership is also most prevalent among middle-aged, middle-class white people from rural areas. Adults who have been arrested for a non-traffic offense are more likely to own a firearm than are other adults. In addition, about 10 percent of the adults own about 77 percent of the total stock of firearms. Overall, 46 percent of gun owners own some kind of gun primarily for protection against crime. Almost all owners report receiving some kind of instruction in the use of their firearms. About one in five of all gun-owning households keep a loaded and unlocked gun in the home. About one in six handguns are kept on the owner's person or in a motor vehicle. Estimates of defensive use of guns are similar to those of Kleck and Gertz, but survey-based estimates appear to be grossly in error for several reasons. Tables, footnotes, appended methodological information, and 75 references

Date Published: January 1, 1996