Aug 16, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Poll: Almost two-thirds of Americans either own a gun or would buy one

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults said they either own a firearm or could see themselves buying one in the future, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Why it matters: An increase in gun violence as a public health concern hasn't made firearms less desirable in the U.S.

  • Almost half of non-gun owners in the survey said they could see themselves purchasing a firearm.

By the numbers: 32% of respondents said they own a gun, which is up 2% from surveys Pew conducted in 2021 and 2017.

  • Nearly three-quarters of the nearly 5,000 people polled said protection was the primary reason they owned a firearm.
  • Just 32% and 30% said their ownership was mainly for hunting and sport shooting, respectively.

Zoom in: Gun ownership was most common among adults of 50 years or older, and it was lowest for adults between the ages of 18 and 29.

  • White adults had the highest ownership percentage (38%), while Asian adults had the lowest (10%).
  • Gun ownership is far more common in rural areas (47%) than in suburban (30%) or urban areas (20%).
  • People who identified themselves as conservative Republicans (51%) were far more likely to own a gun than those who identified as moderate Republicans (38%) or moderate (24%) or liberal (16%) Democrats.

Yes, but: While a majority of adults owned or could see themselves owning a gun, a majority (61%) also said they believe it's too easy to legally obtain a gun in the U.S.

  • That figure is similar to several other polls in recent years that have shown that a majority of American voters favor a wide variety of gun control measures.
  • 30% said they believe the process to obtain a gun is "about right" and only 9% said it is too difficult.

The big picture: The exact number of civilian-owned firearms in the U.S. is difficult to calculate, but a 2018 report by the Small Arms Survey estimated that there were 393.3 million guns in civilian possession around that time.

Methodology: This survey interviewed 5,115 people between June 5-11 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.

Go deeper: U.S. averaging 2 mass shootings per day so far this year

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