Pew Research Center recently published an article sharing some important stats about gun ownership, Americans’ attitudes about gun violence and other related subjects. We’ll highlight some of the most important things these studies revealed below.

Gun Ownership Still Exploding

Forty percent of U.S. adults live in a household with a gun according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2021. And three in ten say they own a gun.

There was an increase of 11 million background checks from 2019 to 2020 according to the FBI’s NICS stats. In fact, eight of the 12 months in 2020 averaged more than 3 million background checks. In 2021, there were over 4 million background checks conducted in both January and March. There are already more than 27 million background checks in 2021 as of September. There were 28 million background checks total in 2019, so 2021 will soon surpass that number. Gun ownership is undoubtedly on the rise in record numbers and continues in that direction.

The Rise of Gun Culture 2.0

In his chapter looking at the rise of self-defense in gun advertising in The American Rifleman from 1918-2017, Dr. David Yamane and his colleagues found U.S. gun culture shifting from gun ownership rooted in hunting and recreational target shooting (Gun Culture 1.0) to personal protection/defense and concealed carry (Gun Culture 2.0). “Gun Culture 2.0 is now America’s dominant and still expanding core gun culture today,” Yamane declared.

Pew Research Center’s recent findings support this statement. Sixty-three percent of American gun owners said they chose to own a firearm for safety and protection according to a Gallup survey conducted in August 2019. This is only followed by hunting at 40 percent and drops to 11 percent when it comes to recreation and sport. While Americans of the past chose to own guns for hunting and recreation, Americans today rely on guns for protection.

Guns and Gun Violence

Roughly half of Americans view gun violence as a big problem in the country, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 2021. That’s not surprising, since the FBI reported that there has been a 33 percent increase in active shooter incidents from 2019 to 2020. These incidents have doubled from 20 incidents in 2016 to 40 incidents in 2020.

While roughly half of Americans favor strict gun laws (53 percent), this sentiment is on the decline. It has decreased from 60 percent in September 2019. This may indicate that more people are realizing tighter gun restrictions won’t stop violence.

Americans are divided over whether restricting legal gun ownership would lead to fewer mass shootings according to the same spring 2021 poll. Roughly half say there would be fewer mass shootings if it was harder for people to obtain guns legally. The other half of Americans either feel this would make no difference or that there would be more mass shootings. 

Placing gun restrictions on responsibly armed Americans isn’t doing anyone a favor. Instead, we need to focus on things that can stop shootings, like warning signs, risk factors and strategies to counteract them, rather than reprimanding gun owners.

Making Sense of It

What do the Pew Research Center’s findings tell us? More Americans want to be armed to protect themselves and are making an effort to do so. Americans are concerned with the rise of violence, but less believe tighter gun restrictions will stop violence. However, they are split down the middle over whether gun restrictions will stop mass shootings. This indicates Americans need resources and guidance on guns more than ever before. The USCCA is here to provide it.

You can view more of the Pew Research Center’s stats here.