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Gun survey says 1.6M defensive uses per year, gun owners are diverse

A handgun aiming at a target. (Dreamstime/TNS)
September 21, 2022

A huge firearms survey that was updated earlier this year found that gun owners use their firearms in self-defense in roughly 1.67 million incidents a year. The survey also found that gun owners are diverse.

According to the survey, guns are used in self-defense in roughly 1.67 million incidents a year, and around a third of gun owners – just over 30 percent – have used a gun to defend themselves or their property. The survey of 16,708 gun owners was conducted between February 17 and March 23, 2021, and was updated in May 2022.

Georgetown University professor William English, who created the survey, told The Reload that the survey’s results suggest tens of millions of Americans have been involved in roughly 50 million “defensive incidents.”

“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 report on the study, which was 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,” he continued. “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).”

In more than 80 percent of defensive incidents, no shot was fired, the survey said. Handguns are the most common gun used for self-defense purpose and are also the most common type of gun owned. 

The survey also found that gun owners are diverse – around 42 percent are female and another 58 percent are male. 

“Approximately 25.4% of Blacks own firearms, 28.3% of Hispanics own firearms, 19.4% of Asians own firearms, and 34.3% of Whites own firearms,” English noted. “In total, Americans own over 415 million firearms, consisting of approximately 171 million handguns, 146 million rifles, and 98 million shotguns.”

Last week, Visa, Mastercard and American Express said they will begin separately categorizing gun store purchases, opening the door to banks denying such transactions. The move comes after multiple anti-gun lawmakers pressured the major credit card companies to “do more” to track “suspicious purchases” related to firearms.