“As a nation, the U.S. has a deep and enduring connection to guns. Integrated into the fabric of American society since the country’s earliest days, guns remain a point of pride for many Americans. Whether for hunting, sport shooting or personal protection, most gun owners count the right to bear arms as central to their freedom,” reports a wide-ranging new poll from the Pew Research Center.
It found that 74 percent of all U.S. gun owners say owning a gun is “essential to their freedom.” Another 73 percent of the owners say they could never see themselves “not owning a gun.” Half say that “all or most of their friends” also own guns. The survey, which also explores the political dimensions of gun ownership, says the nation has “a complex relationship with guns” for multiple reasons.
It revealed that Americans have broad exposure to guns, whether they personally own one or not. At least two-thirds have lived in a household with a gun at some point in their lives. And roughly seven-in-ten — including 55 percent of those who have never personally owned a gun — say they have fired a gun at some point.
Among those who do one, more than two thirds cite personal protection as their primary motivation. Another 38 percent own a gun for hunting while 30 percent cite sport shooting. The poll also found that 13 percent own a gun as part of a collection and 8 percent for their job. Sixty-six percent of the owners surveyed own multiple firearms.
One-in-10 handgun owners says they “carry all the time,” the research said. Forty-two percent of Americans live in a household with a gun and 30 percent personally own one.
“Experience with guns starts relatively early particularly for those who grew up in a gun-owning household. Men who grew up in a household with guns and who have ever shot a gun report that they first fired a gun when they were, on average, 12 years old,” the poll reported.
“Among women who grew up in gun-owning households and who have ever shot a gun, the average age at which they first fired a gun is 17. Men tend to become gun owners at an earlier age than women: 19 years old, on average, vs. 27 years old for women.”
Source: A Pew Research Center American Trends survey of 1,269 U.S. gun owners conducted March 13-27 and April 4-18, and released Thursday.