Most Americans don’t own a gun, and want more gun control

In the minority.
In the minority.
Image: Reuters/Adrees Latif
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Gun tragedies are happening on a daily basis in America, from mass shootings to a child’s killing at the hand of another child. The sheer number of awful events, and the inability or unwillingness of politicians to pass laws that might help prevent them, has created a growing sense that gun control in America is a lost cause.

And yet it is a cause that most Americans continue to support—including many gun owners. In fact, gun owners themselves are a minority in America, and represent a decreasing portion of the US population.

The percentage of households that have a gun has been falling pretty steadily since the 1970s, to 31% in 2014, as shown in a report this year from NORC, a social sciences research group at the University of Chicago that has been surveying Americans for decades.

(The NORC surveys involve thousands of adult Americans and are mostly conducted via sit-down interviews that last 90 minutes or more.)

When you look at the adults who actually own a gun themselves, rather than those who merely live in a household that has one, the numbers are even smaller—just 22.4% of the American adults surveyed owned a gun in 2014:

The drop, the report accompanying the survey said, can be partially attributed to fewer Americans hunting.

The research also found that American women are a lot less keen than men to own guns, as they have been for the life of the survey. But a slightly higher percentage of them own one than they did in 1980.

In addition, the research found that white adults are more likely to live in a household with a gun than non-whites.

Meanwhile, many gun owners actually favor increased gun control themselves—which helps explain why, according to a separate survey by the Pew Research Center, Americans overwhelmingly favor more gun control.