Firearms / Personal Defense / Shooting Sports

Exploring America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (Pew Research Center), Part 1 – Reasons for Gun Ownership

On June 22nd, while I was deeply immersed in my observations of a 250 Defensive Pistol course at Gunsite Academy, the Pew Research Center released a research report called America’s Complex Relationship with Guns.

I was particularly interested in the report because back in February I consulted with the Pew Research Center team about my views of gun culture today and what questions a survey about guns ought to ask.

Now that I have finally had time to look at the report, I am pleased to see my consultation was acknowledged in the final report (p. 73) and at least some of my advice was taken. (Or seems to have been. Obviously just because Pew asked a question does not mean they asked it only because I suggested it.)

In my post about speaking with the Pew Research Center team a few months ago, I listed the questions I would ask if I were doing a survey about guns in America. Did my questions make the cut? And if so, what did the answers reveal?

To keep this from getting too long, I will post a few times this week about the findings from the Pew Research Center report in relation to what I would have asked if I had the resources to field such a survey.

I don’t want to bore anyone with methodological details (I will write a separate post about this at the end), but note that the margin of error due to sampling (at the 95% confidence level) is +/- 2.8% overall (3,930 respondents) and +/- 4.8% for those who say they personally own a gun (1,269 respondents). So, basically the margin of error in the estimates reported is 3% overall and 5% for gun owners.

What is the primary reason(s) for gun ownership today?

This was not a novel question for me to suggest, especially to Pew which has asked this question in the past. But this gets at the heart of the transition from Gun Culture 1.0 to Gun Culture 2.0.

The overall finding reported by Pew is that 67% of gun owners list PROTECTION as a MAJOR reason they own a gun.

Source: Pew Research Center, America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (22 June 2017), p. 9.

If we look at the detailed data Pew provides separate from the main report, we find some interesting caveats to this graphic.

First, Pew actually asked respondents if a reason for owning a gun “is a major reason, a minor reason, or not a reason why you own a gun.” Looked at this way, only 8% of gun owners say protection is NOT a reason they own a gun.

Second, Pew also asked gun owners which was the MOST IMPORTANT reason they own guns, forcing respondents to choose one of the categories. Here, a majority of 52% indicated PROTECTION and 33% indicated one of the recreational pursuits associated with traditional gun culture.

This continues a trend that many of us, including the Pew Research Center itself, have previously noted.

The percentage of respondents who cite protection as their primary reason for owning a gun has now doubled from 26% to 52% (plus or minus) in the less than two decades since 1999.

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5 thoughts on “Exploring America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (Pew Research Center), Part 1 – Reasons for Gun Ownership

  1. Pingback: GC2.0 | Exploring America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (Pew Research Center), Part 1 – Reasons for Gun Ownership | Brittius

  2. Pingback: Exploring America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (Pew Research Center), Part 2 – Getting Into Guns | Gun Culture 2.0

  3. Pingback: Exploring America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (Pew Research Center), Part 4 – Other Involvement in Gun Culture | Gun Culture 2.0

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