Nearly half of US adults who do not currently own a gun say they can see themselves owning one in the future.
How did we do it
The Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand Americans' views on gun ownership. For this analysis, we interviewed 5,115 adults from June 5 to 11, 2023. All who participated in this survey are members of the Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited through a nationwide random sampling of residents. Adresses. In this way, almost all US adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the US adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, party affiliation, education, and other categories.Read more about the ATP methodology.
Here they arequestions used for the reporteyour methodology.
Gun owners in the United States continue to cite protection far more than other factors, including hunting and shooting, as the number one reason they own a gun.
And while a sizable majority of gun owners (71%) say theyto enjoyown a gun, an even larger portion (81%) say thatfeel saferown a gun.
A Pew Research Center survey, conducted June 5-11 among 5,115 members of the American Trends Panel, the Center's national representative, concluded:
72% of gun owners in the US say that protection is one of the main reasons they own a gun.This far outweighs the proportion of gun owners who cite other reasons.
This view has changed only modestly since the Center's main research onattitudes towards gun ownership and gun policiesin 2017. At that time, 67% of gun owners cited protection as the top reason for owning a firearm.
Gun ownership demographics have changed little in recent years.Gun ownership is much more common among residents of rural areas (47%) than among people living in suburban (30%) or urban areas (20%). Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (45%) are much more likely than Democrats and Democrats (20%) to report owning a gun.
Few gun owners worry about having a gun in the house.Only 12% of gun owners say they are concerned about having guns in the home; 88% say no.
A sizable majority say that owning a gun makes them feel more secure and gives them a sense of pleasure.
How non-gun owners feel about owning a gun.About half of Americans who don't own a gun say they would never imagine owning one (52%), while nearly the same number could envision themselves owning guns in the future (47%). These opinions have changed little since 2017.
Men who do not own a gun are much more likely than women who do not own a gun to say they could see themselves owning a gun in the future (56% vs. 40%).
Although a larger share of Republicans than Democrats say they own a gun, Republican non-owners are also more likely than Democratic non-owners to say they would consider owning a gun in the future (61% vs. 40%).
A slim majority of black non-owners (56%) say they could see themselves owning a gun in the future, compared with smaller shares of white (48%), Hispanic (40%) and Asian (38%) non-owners.
Americans' Opinion on Whether It's Too Easy to Legally Obtain a Gun
A majority of Americans (61%) say that it is very easy to legally obtain a gun in this country, while 30% say that it is certain that it is easy to legally obtain a gun; 9% say it's too difficult.
A Center report released in Junefound that 58% say gun laws should be stricter than they are today; 26% think they are right, while 15% are in favor of less stringent gun laws.
There are demographic and partisan differences in opinions about whether it is too easy to legally obtain a gun:
Most US adults living in urban (72%) and suburban (63%) areas say it is very easy to legally obtain a gun.
Opinion among rural residents is more divided: 47% say it's too easy, 41% say it's right and 11% say it's too difficult.
Gun Owners and Non-Owners
Non-owners are almost twice as likely as gun owners to say that it is very easy to legally obtain a gun (73% vs. 38%).
Republicans and Democrats
The partisan divide in opinion about the ease of legally obtaining guns in the US is greater than the difference in views between gun owners and non-gun owners. An overwhelming portion of Democrats (86%) say it is very easy to obtain a gun legally. About a third of Republicans (34%) say the same.
Gun ownership in the United States
The percentage of adults who say they personally own a gun – or that someone else in their household owns a gun – has changed little in recent years. Approximately one-third (32%) claim to own a gun; another 10% say that although they don't personally own a gun, someone else in their household does.
gender and race
Four out of ten men say they own a gun, compared to a quarter of women.
And white adults are much more likely than black, Hispanic or Asian adults to say they personally own a gun.
Reported gun ownership is much higher among adults living in rural areas (47%) than suburban (30%) or urban (20%) residents.
Republicans and Democrats
Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, are much more likely than Democrats to say they own a gun.
About half of conservative Republicans (51%) say they own a gun. That compares to 38% of moderate and liberal Republicans, 24% of conservative and moderate Democrats, and 16% of liberal Democrats.
Feelings about gun ownership
Gun owners express overwhelmingly positive feelings about owning a gun, with a sizable majority saying it makes them feel safer and that they enjoy owning a gun.
However, people who do not own guns but live in households where a gun exists are much less likely to express positive feelings.
While 81% of gun owners say owning a gun makes them feel safer, a slim majority of non-owners in gun households (57%) say the same about having a gun in the home.
About three in 10 non-homeowners with guns (31%) like to have a gun in their home; this compares to 71% of gun owners who say they enjoy owning a gun.
And a larger share of non-owners (27%) than owners (12%) are concerned about having a gun in their home.
There are also partisan differences among gun owners in their views on gun ownership. Republican gun owners are more likely than Democratic gun owners to say that owning a gun gives them feelings of security and pleasure, while Democratic gun owners are more likely to say they worry about having a gun in their home.
Measuring gun ownership
Measuring gun ownership in the United States presents a unique set of challenges. Unlike many demographic measures, there is no definitive source of data from the government or elsewhere on how many American adults own guns.
This survey, conducted June 5-11, 2023 at the Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel, asks about gun ownership using two separate questions to measure personal and household ownership. About a third of adults (32%) say they own a gun, while another 10% say they don't personally own a gun, but someone in their family does. These percentages have changed little in relation to surveys carried out in2021e2017. In each of these surveys, 30% reported owning a gun.
These numbers are broadly consistent with gun ownership rates reported byGallup, but slightly higher than those reported by theGeneral Social Research. These surveys also reveal only modest changes in recent years.
The FBI maintains data on background checks on individuals attempting to purchase firearms in the United States. The FBI reported aincrease in background checksin 2020 and 2021, during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of federal background checks decreased in 2022 and during the first half of this year,according to FBI statistics.