REUTERS/Jim Young

They’re predominantly “white, married men over the age of 55,” say researchers.

To judge from gun ownership alone, the United States has a private militia that massively dwarfs its own army. Almost a third of the nation’s citizens have one or more guns, and that proportion jumps to more than half in places like Arkansas and West Virginia.

So say researchers at Columbia University and elsewhere who just published the results of a poll of 4,000 Americans in Injury Prevention. About 29 percent of the survey-takers copped to gun-ownership—the majority of them being white, married men older than 55, claim the researchers.

Among their other findings: States with higher gun-ownership rates have higher rates of gun death. (The year they conducted the survey, 2013, saw 33,636 gun-related fatalities nationwide.) Alaska placed first in per-capita firepower with nearly 62 percent of its citizenry having guns; Delaware was last with about 5 percent. And owning a gun is strongly linked to “social gun culture,” defined as having armed friends or family members or taking part in gun-related group activities.

Here’s more about that last one from a press release:

“The link between social gun culture and gun ownership also suggests one avenue through which modern conceptions of the primacy of gun ownership, despite the potential public health consequences, are reinforced,” note the researchers.

“Although notions of protection of one's family and property originally justified gun ownership, [this] is today sustained in public consciousness much more through calls to constitutionally enshrined social values, reinforced intermittently by outrage at efforts to limit widespread gun availability,” they add.

The results suggest that the prevailing social gun culture in the US should be factored in to the planning and implementation of prudent gun policies designed to reduce the harms associated with gun ownership, they conclude.

The study backs up other research on American firearm ownership. In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that 37 percent of households have a gun, and around the same time Gallup indicated 42 percent of Americans keep a piece at home.

Kalesan et al.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  2. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  3. Maps

    The Children’s Book Map That Led Me Out of Depression

    As a child, I loved the fantastical lands from The Phantom Tollbooth. As a troubled college student, I used them as a roadmap to self-acceptance.

  4. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.
    Transportation

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

  5. Transportation

    When a Transit Agency Becomes a Suburban Developer

    The largest transit agency in the U.S. is building a mixed-use development next to a commuter rail station north of Manhattan.

×