WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — One-third of Americans own at least one gun, with the highest percentage of gun owners being white males over the age of 55, a new “gun culture” study finds.
The new study aimed at identifying who owns guns in the U.S. and why and suggests that nearly one-third of Americans have at least one firearm. The Columbia University researchers linked ownership to “gun culture” and the study’s data is based off sample estimates given that no agency keeps formal statistics on gun ownership. Many gun-rights activists seek to keep gun ownership private due to fears that potential laws put in place could identify firearm owners.
Assistant professor of epidemiology, Bindu Kalesan, worked with colleagues in surveying 4,000 people about gun ownership and attitudes toward owning a gun, NBC News reports. State-level firearm policy information was obtained from the Brady Law Center and Injury Prevention and Control Center.
“One-third of Americans reported owning a gun, ranging from 5.2 percent in Delaware to 61.7 percent in Alaska,” they wrote in their report. “Gun ownership was 2.25 times greater among those reporting social gun culture than those who did not,” write the researchers.
Different regions of the country reflected varying gun ownership rates and feelings of firearm ownership.
The Northeast ranged from 5.8 percent in Rhode Island to 28.8 percent gun ownership rates in Vermont. The Midwest spanned Ohio’s 19.6 percent gun ownership rate to 47.9 percent in North Dakota. In the South and mid-Atlantic regions, Delaware reflected a 5.2 percent gun ownership rate to 57.9 percent in Arkansas.
The researchers noted it was not clear if a pro-gun culture facilitated owning guns, or whether it was the other way around.
“Social gun culture was measured using four questions that assessed whether an individual’s ‘social circle thinks less of them if they did not own a gun’, ‘family thinks less of them not owning a gun’, ‘social life with family involves guns’ and ‘social life with friends involves guns’,” explained the Columbia researchers.
“Firearm violence in the USA continues to be a major public health concern,” Kalesan’s team wrote. “There is little question that the high prevalence of gun ownership in the USA contributes to the burden of firearm-related injury.”
However, a study released earlier this month from the Violence Policy Center analyzed FBI data to show 259 people used a gun to kill someone else in self-defense in 2012, compared to 8,342 criminal homicides committed using a firearm. The most recent General Social Survey revealed that 32 percent of Americans own a firearm or live with someone who owns a gun.
The researchers concluded, “[W]e found strong association between social gun culture and gun ownership. Gun cultures may need to be considered for public health strategies that aim to change gun ownership in the USA.”