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Gallup: Crime Victims Deciding To Arm Themselves

Crime victims are more likely to own guns than people who haven't been victimized, a new Gallup poll found.

The survey analyzed gun ownership among people who were victims of assault, theft or property crimes over the past year, and compared those rates to the general population.

Among people who haven't been victimized, 28 percent say they own firearms, while 33 percent of people who have been victims own them, the results show. Although the percentage may seem small, Gallup calls it "a statistically significant difference."

In all, Gallup spoke to more than 11,000 adults to compile the data as part of the polling group's annual crime survey, which aims to measure American attitudes on all facets of crime and how crime is perceived.

People in rural areas are most likely to purchase guns, regardless of whether they've been assaulted or had property stolen, the poll concluded. Although the two actions are not mutually exclusive, crime victims who live in urban and suburban areas are more likely to report the incident to police and less likely to purchase a firearm.

At least part of the difference could be explained by the patchwork of gun laws that vary by state and city. For example, gun permits issued by New York State are not recognized by New York City, and civilians must obtain a special permit from the city's police commissioner in order to legally possess a handgun within the city, a rarity.

A 2013 New York Times story noted an uptick in arrests of law-abiding gun owners who followed protocol by transporting their unloaded weapons in locked containers, but were arrested at New York City airports because they did not understand the local laws.

"To some degree, tougher restrictions on gun ownership in many cities may make it harder for crime victims to obtain guns," the poll's authors wrote.

Broken down along gender lines, 48 percent of men who have been attacked or had property stolen or destroyed own guns, while 19 percent of female crime victims own guns. For both genders, that's a five percent increase in gun ownership among victims.

While Gallup says gender is still the strongest predictor of firearm ownership, the pollster has found that women are the fastest-growing group of gun owners. A 2005 Gallup poll found 13 percent of women owned guns; in 2015, that number was 23 percent. Similarly, the National Shooting Sports Foundation says women comprise the fastest-growing demographic in shooting sports, which include target shooting and hunting.

While the new survey did not ask crime victims when they purchased their guns, the poll's authors referred to an earlier study they conducted in 2013, in which 60 percent of gun owners cited personal safety and protection as the reasons they own firearms.

"U.S. gun policy has come under increased scrutiny in recent decades, driven partly by mass shootings but also by the high rate of gun-related homicides," the new poll's authors wrote. "For crime victims, the threat of victimization is no longer a possibility but a reality."

Sources: Gallup, New York Times, National Shooting Sports Foundation / Photo credit: Thernlund/Wikimedia Commons

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