Gun Ownership Twice as High as Previously Thought?

Gun ownership could be dramatically underreported.

posted on August 3, 2023
Person receiving firearm training on a range with safety gear

Results from a Rutgers University New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center study, released in late June, indicate the number of Americans who own guns could be twice that of the widely accepted figure of roughly 30 percent. Applying a probability model based on a statistical analysis of 3,500 respondents, the researchers determined reluctance to provide personal details to a stranger—particularly when asked about home- and personal-defense choices—minimized results of previous efforts at determining the figure. The new report indicates the number is considerably higher and may run all the way up to 60 percent.

The study, titled “Predicting Potential Underreporting of Firearm Ownership in a Nationally Representative Sample,” was published by the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology journal. The findings endorse a long-held belief in the industry that firearm owners put a higher value on their privacy than non-gun owners, particularly when it comes to questions about gun ownership.

The report also highlights a growing trend that will likely increase the inaccuracy gap in future studies that ignore participants uncomfortable with Second Amendment questions. More urbanites, females and minorities are exercising that right than ever before and, as the study notes, “Our results highlight the potential that several groups, particularly women and individuals living in urban environments, may be prone to falsely denying firearm ownership.”

The research cites the divisive and contentious debate on guns and the right to self-defense as one motivation for not answering a poll correctly when it includes firearms. Another, according to the report, “…may be that a percentage of firearm owners are concerned that their information will be leaked and the government will take their firearms or that researchers who are from universities that are typically seen as liberal and anti-firearm will paint firearm owners in a bad light.”


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