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. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California’s Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over vacancy in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  3. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

  4. A syringe sits on top of a car. Houses are behind it.
    Life

    The Changing Geography of the Opioid Crisis

    A new study shows that the country faces different opioid challenges in urban and rural areas.

  5. Environment

    The City Known for ‘Sewer Socialists’ Actually Has Great Sewers

    Milwaukee now averages a mere 2.4 combined sewer overflows a year, thanks to a massive underground tunnel, green infrastructure, and flood-control measures.

×