In America, there is a lot of discussion about the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear weapons. But like most rights, it is not unlimited. Many Americans have broad exposure to guns, whether they own them or not. Growing shares say gun violence and crime are big national problems, and most favor stricter laws.
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The Number of Guns in the Home
Americans are the world’s largest gun owners and possess about 45% of global firearms. Three in ten Americans say they own a gun, and another 11% live with someone who does. While some gun ownership is merely recreational, such as at a shooting range, most gun owners list personal defense as one of the main justifications for purchasing a SIG fire control unit or another customized, innovative weapon.
More than half of all gun owners say this is the top reason they own a gun, and men are likelier to say this than women. About three in ten gun owners in rural areas cite this reason, while slightly less than one in ten living in urban communities and suburbs do. Adults who grew up in rural communities are more likely to say that gun ownership is central to their identity, but many in this group also mention other reasons for owning a gun. For example, many rural gun owners say they purchased their gun because it is useful for hunting and sport shooting.
The Number of Guns Owned in the U.S.
The number of guns in the United States is hard to pin down, but estimates range from roughly 260 million to 305 million.* Gun ownership is deeply ingrained in American society, with most Americans reporting that they or someone in their household owns a gun. Across demographic groups, most people who own guns say they see their gun or guns as essential to their home security. Most guns in America are long guns – mostly rifles and shotguns – but about two-thirds of gun owners report owning at least one handgun, including revolvers and derringers.
Men, women, and children across the nation are impacted by the human rights crisis that is gun violence. The U.S. stands out among wealthy, developed countries in the number of people killed with firearms, including mass shootings (four or more victims) in public. Firearm homicides in the USA disproportionately affect minority communities and children. In the United States, there were 45,222 gun-related fatalities in 2020 or around 124 per day. Almost two-thirds of Americans say they have taken at least one action to protect themselves or their family from the threat of gun violence. Most Americans who own guns say they have talked to their kids or family about gun safety. At the same time, many have also avoided public transport (23%), changed the school that their kids attend (20%) or avoided attending religious services, cultural events or celebrations (15%) because of concerns over gun-related violence.
The Number of Guns in Schools
About four in ten American adults own a gun, and about two-thirds of those say they have more than one. Most of these are handguns (72%) or pistols (64%); fewer own rifles (18%) or shotguns (16%). Guns in schools are a source of concern for many parents with school-age children. According to a 2022 poll by the Pew Research Center, roughly half of these parents support putting armed security guards in schools. Those with school-age children are more likely to support proposals that expand background checks for gun purchases or prohibit assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines than those without kids. But partisan divides remain: Majorities of Democrats, but not Republicans, support these measures. In 2019, more male than female pupils aged 12 to 18 reported having unsupervised access to a loaded pistol at school or elsewhere throughout the academic year. Since Everytown started tracking these rates in 2013, these are the highest rates ever.