In a groundbreaking survey touted as the largest and most detailed of its kind, evidence emerges that Americans deploy their firearms in self-defense approximately 1.7 million times annually.
The study, conducted online by Centiment between February and March 2021, further illuminates the common use of AR-15-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, both frequently in the crosshairs of legislative restrictions. Such popularity in lawful purposes, it seems, aligns with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of arms protected under the Second Amendment.
Commissioned by Georgetown University’s political economist, William English, for an upcoming book, this exhaustive survey analyzed a representative group of 54,000 adults. Out of these, 16,708 confirmed they were gun owners.
The findings, particularly the 32% adult gun ownership rate, harmonize with the data from other credible institutions such as Gallup and the Pew Research Center. The survey also offered insights into gun ownership demographics: 58% were men, 25% African Americans, 28% Hispanics, 19% Asians, and 34% whites.
Drawing from the sheer size of the sample, this survey offers state-specific ownership rates, highlighting the variance from states like Massachusetts and Hawaii with around 16% ownership to states like Idaho and West Virginia with over 50%.
The numbers reveal that Americans collectively possess roughly 415 million firearms: 171 million handguns, 146 million rifles, and 98 million shotguns.
Intriguingly, around 30% of participants indicated ownership of AR-15s or equivalent rifles. Often labeled “assault weapons” in several state laws and even a proposed federal bill, these rifles are under constant legislative scrutiny. The same goes for high-capacity magazines.
Nearly half (48%) of the participants admitted to owning magazines capable of accommodating more than the typical 10 rounds.
These statistics underscore the legislative conundrum: attempting to prohibit the circulation of “assault weapons” or “large capacity” magazines seems a Herculean task. Current estimates propose that around 44 million AR-15-style rifles and upwards of 542 million high-capacity magazines are already in the hands of the public.
Gun owners detailed their varied applications of these weapons. Two-thirds utilized AR-15-style rifles for recreational shooting, half for hunting, a third for competitive shooting, 62% for home defense, and 35% for personal safety outside the home.
Yet, despite these numbers, some policymakers push the narrative that these rifles are strictly instruments of mass violence.
Similarly, high-capacity magazine owners listed diverse uses: 64% for recreational shooting, 62% for home defense, 47% for hunting, 42% for defense outside home premises, and 27% for competitive shooting.
However, perhaps the most revealing aspect of the survey pertained to the actual defensive use of firearms.
Approximately 31% of gun owners asserted they had employed a firearm in defense. Notably, in 82% of such instances, simply brandishing or intimating the possession of a gun sufficed to neutralize the threat, without firing a single shot.
English’s conclusions suggest that firearms act as a defensive tool in roughly 1.67 million incidents yearly. This figure underscores the pivotal role guns play in safeguarding citizens, particularly when contrasted against the modest media coverage of such events.
This study, although monumental in its scope and findings, isn’t free from potential biases. Self-reports, after all, are subjective. But these results, supported by the sheer size and representation of the survey, seem to challenge the prevailing narratives about gun use in America.
The overwhelming evidence suggests that firearms, often maligned in mainstream conversations, might just be the unsung heroes in countless defensive scenarios across the nation.