Firearm owners in the United States are a diverse group of people and the demographics of ownership are changing
About 4 in 10 households in the US have firearms1 and firearm owners are a diverse group with various reasons for owning guns.
Firearms are common in US households. Recent surveys estimate that 29% of US adults personally own firearms and that an additional 10% of adults live in households with firearms, but do not personally own them.2
Most US firearm owners are male, non-Hispanic white, married, and have at least some college education. Over 40% have annual household incomes above $100,000. Most owners live in a suburban (45%) area, followed by urban (28%) and rural (27%) areas, and 43% live in the Southern US. One-third of owners live in a household with children.2 Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans (45% vs. 22%) to own firearms.3 Gun ownership is concentrated, with the majority of guns in the US (60%) owned by only 20% of owners.4
However, the demographic of people who own firearms is rapidly evolving. An unprecedented 7.5 million people in the US became new owners between January 2019 and April 2021. Among these first-time owners, 48% were female, 21% were non-Hispanic Black, and 19% were Hispanic, a contrast to firearm owners overall, who are primarily male (63%) and non-Hispanic white (73%).2
Some of this increase in ownership may have been driven by a desire for protection against other people, which is the most common reason for firearm ownership in the US (65% of male and 73% of female owners).2,3 People also own firearms for hunting, sport shooting, collecting, and protection against animals.4
Firearm Owners in California
Fewer Californians own a firearm than Americans overall (14% vs. 29%). An additional 11% of Californians live in a household with someone who owns a firearm.5
Compared to Californians as a whole, firearm owners in the state are more likely to be male, older, non-Hispanic white, and have annual household incomes above $100,000. Gun ownership is concentrated, with almost half of the guns in California owned by only 10% of owners.5
Californians own different types of firearms for different reasons. The most common reason for handgun ownership, cited by 57% of owners, is protection against other people. The most common reasons Californians own long guns are for sport shooting (34%), hunting (19%), and protection against other people (18%). About 6% carry a gun for work.5
Firearms are a way of life for many people in the US and California. People have them for protection, hunting, and sport shooting, and they are often an important part of people’s identity.
Here, we’ve presented information from surveys with firearm owners across the US and in California. But we know that it’s important to talk with firearm owners to learn more about who they are and what they think about firearm injury prevention.
That’s why BulletPoints is currently connecting with firearm organizations, ranges, shops, and clubs in California to learn more about these important stakeholders in firearm injury prevention.
Check back soon for more information!
- America’s Complex Relationship With Guns. Pew Research Center.
- Firearm Purchasing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Results From the 2021 National Firearms Survey. Annals of Internal Medicine.
- Firearm ownership among American veterans: findings from the 2015 National Firearm Survey. Injury Epidemiology.
- The Stock and Flow of U.S. Firearms: Results from the 2015 National Firearms Survey. The Russell Sage Foundation.
- Firearm ownership and acquisition in California: findings from the 2018 California Safety and Well-being Survey. Injury Prevention.