A new study meant to figure out who owns guns in the U.S. and their reasons for owning them suggests that about 1 in 3 three Americans owns at least one firearm.
Most likely to own a gun are white males over the age of 55. The social phenomenon called “gun culture” was also closely linked with ownership, the study by a team at Columbia University in New York headed by Bindu Kalesan, assistant professor of epidemiology, found.
“Considering the presence of deeply rooted gun culture and the estimated number of guns in the U.S. to be 310 million, we (suspected) that social gun culture is associated with gun ownership,” Kalesan said.
“This association was strong even after removing the effect of other factors such as presence of gun laws and gun deaths,” Kalesan wrote in an email to Reuters.
Gun ownership was 2.25 times more common among respondents who reported a social gun culture, NBC New reports.
It’s not clear which comes first: pro-gun culture or owning guns, researchers said.
Using data from a 2013 online survey of 4,000 U.S. adults from every state, researchers selected participants that were representative of the U.S. population as a whole.
About 29 percent of adults nationwide reported owning a gun. Rates of gun ownership varied significantly by state. In Alaska, 62 percent of people own a gun while the number is as low as 5 percent in Delaware and 6 percent in Rhode Island.
The study found gun ownership to be least common in the Northeast though Vermont’s rate of 28.8 percent comes close to the national average. Gun ownership is highest in Southern and Western United States. In West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, more than one-half of respondents reported owning a gun.
Roughly 5 percent of people said they use their guns for hunting. Ten percent say they attended gun safety classes.
Kalesan, the study's lead author, said gun ownership is on the decline, but sales are rising, indicating that those who own guns may be buying more than one.
Compared to other developed countries, gun ownership is high in the U.S. Kalesan said policymakers should keep in mind the pervasive gun culture and the strong association with gun ownership.
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