To hear some tell it, gun owners are nothing but a bunch of old white dudes who care nothing about anyone who isn’t old, white, or male. As an old white dude and a gun owner, I kind of resent that characterization.
However, I’ll admit that I fit the model of “gun guy” these folks have built up in their heads. I can’t help it, it’s just who I am.
A recent survey, however, finds that this characterization isn’t remotely fair to gun owners in general, though.
A survey of 16,708 gun owners provides updated answers to some of the most pressing questions surrounding guns in America.
The National Firearms Survey, conducted in 2021 and updated earlier this year, examines the breadth of gun ownership and the use of guns throughout the country. It found more minorities and women own guns than previous surveys indicated, half of gun owners report carrying a handgun for self-defense, and nearly a third report having used a firearm to defend themselves–a number that translates to over 1.6 million defensive uses per year. William English, the Georgetown University professor who created the survey, told The Reload it is the most comprehensive look at American gun ownership yet produced.
“The biggest difference between the results of this survey and many earlier ones is that this survey goes into greater depth regarding types of firearms owned, the details of defensive gun uses, and frequency of defensive carry of handguns,” Professor English said. “This survey is also the largest survey of gun owners ever conducted, providing more statistical power than earlier surveys and much more information about the demographics of gun ownership and use. Its results are largely consistent with other recent survey work when it comes to general ownership estimates, which increases the confidence in its accuracy, but it goes into greater depth with regard to many details of interest.”
The sweeping survey will likely influence both the political and legal landscape surrounding firearms. The debate over guns has primarily centered on how common the ownership of guns is and how often they are really used to protect people rather than endanger them. Much of the evidence cited in that debate is decades old. So, the introduction of not just more thorough but more recent evidence may disrupt the decades-old conversation on guns. Its effect may be particularly stark in federal courts where the Supreme Court has placed significant weight on protecting guns in “common use for lawful purposes.”
This is a massive study with a huge sample size, which is something that far too many studies fail at. While it’s a survey-type study, the truth is that some of this can only be accurately gauged by a survey of this type.
Perhaps most interesting is the study’s finding on defensive gun uses.
The survey also advances the understanding of defensive gun use. It shows many American gun owners report actually using their firearms to defend themselves.
“Given that 31.1% of firearms owners have used a firearm in self-defense, this implies that approximately 25.3 million adult Americans have defended themselves with a firearm,” English wrote in a preprint report on the study published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). “Answers to the frequency question suggest that these gun owners have been involved in a total of approximately 50 million defensive incidents. Assuming that defensive uses of firearms are distributed roughly equally across years, this suggests at least 1.67 million defensive uses of firearms per year in which firearms owners have defended themselves or their property through the discharge, display, or mention of a firearm (excluding military service, police work, or work as a security guard).”
Now, this is much lower than the numbers found by FSU’s Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz by about 900,000 incidents, it should be remembered that we’re talking about a study conducted in 1995. In almost 30 years, the violent crime rate has dropped significantly. As a result, there’s less need for a defensive gun use, which likely caused this estimate to be much lower.
Which is fine. That’s good news.
Well, it’s good news for anyone who values gun rights. It’s bad news for anti-gun jihadists who prefer to argue that guns aren’t actually useful for self-defense.
The problem, as English notes, is that many of these defensive gun uses aren’t actually violent. No one gets shot, so there’s no use it trying to use emergency room numbers of self-defense killings as metrics for successful defensive gun uses.
However, interestingly, English notes that when you figure cases where a round is fired and hit probability, his numbers do correspond to emergency room visits.
So what we have is a picture of gun owners that looks very different from what we’ve been told. Shocking, I know, but here we are.
Gun owners aren’t a bunch of old, white males who just want everything to stay the same. We’re growing more and more diverse, which is actually a good thing since gun rights are everyone’s rights.
Further, we’re seeing that defensive gun use is much more common than the anti-gunners want us to believe.
That tells us just how important it is to defend our right to keep and bear arms. How many of those 1.67 million people would be dead each year without their firearms? That is the cost of gun control and don’t let anyone say otherwise.