skip to main content
About Four in 10 Americans Report Owning a Gun

About Four in 10 Americans Report Owning a Gun

Gun owners say that having a gun makes their house safer; non-gun owners say exactly the opposite

by Michael D. Cohen

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Thirty-nine percent of adults in a recent Gallup poll say they have a gun at home, and an additional 2% say they have a gun somewhere else on their property or in a car or truck. The percentage of adults who say they own a gun is down from 49% when Gallup first asked the gun ownership question in this form 41 years ago, in 1959, but is about average for the past four years. Both the high and the low point for self-reported gun ownership came in this decade. In October 1993, 51% of Americans said they owned a gun, while the low point occurred last year with only 34% reporting owning a gun. In addition to actual changes in levels of gun ownership, prevailing social norms or the social environment may change in ways that make Americans more or less likely to report owning a gun to an outside interviewer.

Do you have a gun in your home?

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

39

60

1

       

2000 Apr 7-9

42

57

1

1999 Apr 26-27

34

64

2

1999 Feb 8-9

36

62

2

1997 Aug 22-25

42

57

1

1996 Nov 21-24

44

54

2

1996 Jul 25-28

38

60

2

1993 Oct 13-18

51

48

1

1993 Mar 12-14

48

51

1

1991

46

53

1

1990

47

52

1

1989

47

51

2

1985

44

55

1

1983

40

58

2

1980

45

53

2

1975

44

54

2

1972

43

55

2

1968

50

50

--

1965

48

52

--

1959

49

51

--



Since 1993, gun owners have consistently reported owning an average of about four firearms at home or on their property.

What type of guns do Americans own? About equal numbers of gun owners -- six in 10 – report having rifles, handguns and shotguns. Perhaps not surprisingly, handguns are somewhat more predominant among gun owners who live in urban and suburban areas, while rifles are more common among those living in rural areas.

Which of the following types of guns do you have in your household? First, ... Next, ... [ROTATED]

BASED ON -- 413 -- WHO HAVE A GUN IN THE HOME OR ON THE PROPERTY; ± 5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Rifle

Shotgun

Handgun

 

%

%

%

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

62

59

64

       

1999 Apr 26-27 ^

69

63

67

1999 Feb 8-9 ^

67

59

61

1996 Jul 25-28 ^

63

61

62

       

^ Options not rotated.



Gun ownership skews towards men. Half of the men surveyed said they have a gun while only 29% of women report having one. Gun owners are most likely to live in the South and in rural areas, 47% and 55% respectively. Americans who own guns tend to be more Republican than Democrat, a 46% to 34% difference, and they supported George W. Bush for president over Al Gore at the time of the survey (around Labor Day) by a similar margin, 48% to 35%.

Gun owners were asked if they used their gun for each of three reasons: hunting, target shooting and for protection against crime. Two-thirds of Americans who personally own guns say they use them mainly for target shooting, 65% have them for protection against crime, and 59% use a gun for hunting. Gun ownership as a protection against crime is most prevalent among those living in suburban areas, while owning a gun for hunting is more common in rural areas. Female gun owners are a little, but not overwhelmingly, more likely than are men to say that they own a gun for protection.

Does having a gun in the home make it a safer or more dangerous place to be?

Do you think having a gun in the house makes it -- [ROTATED: a safer place to be (or) a more dangerous place to be]?

 

A safer
place to be

A more dangerous place to be


DEPENDS (vol.)

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

35

51

11

3

         

1993 Dec 17-21 ^

42

52

5

1

         

^ Wording: "Which of the following comes closer to your view: having a gun in the house makes it a safer place to be because you can protect yourself from violent intruders or having a gun in the house makes it a more dangerous place to be because you increase the risk from gun accidents and domestic violence?"



(vol.)=Volunteered response

Overall, 51% of Americans say that having a gun in the house makes it "a more dangerous place to be" as opposed to 35% who believe that it makes their homes safer. There is a highly substantial difference between those who own guns and those who don't in response to this question. Fifty-nine percent of gun owners believe that having firearms makes their household safer, while 70% of Americans who do not own guns say that a firearm makes the home a more dangerous place to be.

The Gun Issue in This Year's Presidential Race
Despite its high visibility, the gun issue will not be among the most important concerns to American voters in this year's presidential election. Among 14 issues tested in a July 2000 poll, the priority of the gun issue was ranked lower than 10 of them, behind such issues as education, the economy, health care, taxes, the environment and national defense. Only abortion, foreign affairs and foreign trade were rated lower than guns. Sixty-two percent of Americans said that the gun issue would be extremely or very important to their vote, compared, by way of example, to 89% who said that education would be important.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,012 adults, 18 years and older, conducted August 29-September 5, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

What is the total number of guns kept in your house or property?

BASED ON -- 413 -- WHO HAVE A GUN IN THE HOME OR ON THE PROPERTY; ± 5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

1

2-4

5+

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

28

41

21

10

         

1999 Feb 8-9

26

38

24

12

1996 Jul 25-28

28

34

25

13

1993 Dec 17-21

24

39

29

8

         

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

Mean 4.1; Median 2.0

1999 Feb 8-9

Mean 4.4; Median 3.0

1996 Jul 25-28

Mean 4.3; Median 3.0

1993 Dec 17-21

Mean 4.5



Do you personally own a gun, or do the gun or guns in your household belong to another household member?

BASED ON -- 413 -- WHO HAVE A GUN IN THE HOME OR ON THE PROPERTY; ± 5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Yes, personally

No, not personally

SHARED (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

67

31

--

2

         

1993 Oct 13-18

63

31

6

--



(vol.)=Volunteered response

Next, please tell me whether you own a gun for each of the following reasons. How about … [RANDOM ORDER]

BASED ON -- 272 -- WHO PERSONALLY OWN A GUN; ± 6 PCT. PTS.

A. For hunting

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

59%

41

0



B. For target shooting

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

67%

33

0



C. For protection against crime

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

65%

35

0



Gallup

Subscribe to receive weekly Gallup News alerts.
Never miss our latest insights.


Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/2473/about-four-americans-report-owning-gun.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030