New Survey Shows Truth About Gun Owners

How much do we really know about American gun owners? We know that there are about 100-million of us, and over 20-million of us possess our concealed carry license. We know that gun ownership is becoming more diverse, that we can be found across the political spectrum, and that most of us own firearms primarily for self-defense.


As Rob Morse of Slow Facts and the Self-Defense Gun Stories podcast (among his many endeavors) shares on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, however, we also know that a surprisingly large number of Americans report having used a firearm in self-defense… even if they don’t personally own a gun.

The 2021 National Firearms Survey quizzed more than 50,000 Americans on gun ownership and their self-defense experiences, and the result is a fascinating and revealing mosaic that upends the media narrative about guns and their supposedly rare involvement in self-defense. As Morse recently wrote at Ammoland:

We learned that guns and gun owners are everywhere. Two of the largest anti-gun states, California and New York, also had some of the most firearms owners compared to other states.

Where the state permits it, many gun owners carry a firearm in public for personal protection. That happens in some areas even in “anti-gun” states. There are many counties in California and in New York where ordinary citizens with a clean criminal record will get their carry permits if they ask for them. That isn’t the portrait the media paints of gun owners in those red states.

Having a personal firearm can make us significantly safer. Examples, where the armed victim defended themselves, dwarf the number of firearms accidents. Being armed increases the gun owner’s safety, the safety of their family, and the safety of their neighborhoods. About a third of all gun owners in the survey reported using a firearm for personal defense, though most of those self-defense events were at or near their home and not necessarily in public.

As you would hope, our armed neighbors were wonderfully reluctant to use lethal force. More than 80 percent of armed defense incidents ended without the defender having to fire a shot. The victim saying he was armed, showing the firearm, or threatening to shoot was enough to stop most attacks.


The anti-gun media and the gun control lobby desperately need their audience to believe that armed self-defense is rare. And it’s true that if you go looking for headlines about gun-related homicides versus justified fatal shootings, you’ll find far more of the former than the latter. But Rob has honed in on a key fact that is almost never acknowledged by the media; the vast majority of defensive gun uses don’t involve a trigger being pulled.

Not only does this data point suggest that armed self-defense is far more common than news headlines would indicate, it utterly obliterates the Left’s preferred stereotype of gun owners as trigger happy vigilantes. As it turns out, those of us who carry a firearm in self-defense aren’t particularly eager to have to discharge our weapon, and we don’t start blasting away when we perceive a threat.

The number of armed citizens carrying in public will also come as a surprise to many folks. Morse estimates that about 17-million Americans are lawfully armed on any given day, which translates to about one out of every twelve American adults. Obviously the prevalence of armed citizens depends on where you live and the gun laws of a given state, and it’s much more common to find someone lawfully carrying in, say, rural Alabama than in downtown Los Angeles.

Hopefully that will change with the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which could lead to the “may issue” carry licensing laws in New York getting tossed out and replaced with a “shall issue” system. If that happens, the seven remaining “may issue” states should soon follow suit, and while I don’t expect New York or California to suddenly embrace the right to keep and bear arms, simply dropping the existing “good cause” standard will expand the opportunity to legally bear arms in self-defense to tens of millions of Americans who currently live in under “may issue” regimes. And based on the percentage of the population that are concealed carry holders in shall-issue states, its clear that there are millions of Americans who would love to exercise their right to bear arms but can’t because of the subjective nature of their state’s laws.


The 2021 National Firearms Survey can’t tell us everything about American gun owners, but we can draw a few conclusions. We’re not just in red states. We’re everywhere, and our numbers are growing each and every day. We use our firearms in self-defense far more frequently than the news media reports, because most of our defensive gun uses aren’t particularly newsworthy. Heck, they might not even show up in a police report. And finally, we know that the “average” gun owner looks a lot like the “average” American. No matter how finely you might want to slice and dice up our demographic pie, you’ll find gun owners and Second Amendment supporters in every piece. Black, white, left, right, gay, straight, or any other label you want to come up with; gun owners are a part of that community, which frankly, is exactly how it should be.


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