Concealed Carry / Firearms / Personal Defense

Exploring America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (Pew Research Center), Part 3 – Gun Carrying and Defensive Use

Continuing on with my exploration of the Pew Research Center’s new report, America’s Complex Relationship with Guns, here I get closer to the heart of Gun Culture 2.0 — the new version of America’s historic gun culture, one now centered on armed self-defense and particularly concealed carry.

As I told the Pew Research Center staff during my consultation with them . . .

I think it is high time for someone to again ask a good question about people’s actual practices of gun carrying.

Although they restricted the respondents only to those who personally own handguns (72% of all gun owners, and 21% of all respondents to the survey), Pew finds that 57% of handgun owners “carry a handgun or pistol outside of their home” all of the time (11%), most of the time (15%), or some of the time (31%).

Thought of in terms of the entire sample and the US population, 21% of all respondents to the Pew survey say they own handguns. 57% of those carry outside the home at least some of the time. That is possibly 12% of the US adult population, almost 30 million people. Which is considerably larger than the proportion of the US population that has concealed carry permits.

Of course, “outside your home” could mean in your backyard or on y0ur property or in your car rather than to work or in Starbucks or Wal-Mart. This reminds me of the story firearms trainer Tom Givens tells about about when he was a police officer in the 1970s. He said it was so common for people to carry guns in their cars, that when he pulled someone over he did not ask, “Do you have a gun in your car?” He asked, “Where is the gun in your car?”

In that same older post, I recall a survey from 1978 that found that 29% of respondents who owned handguns responded “yes” to the question: “Do you ever carry that handgun or pistol outside of the house with you for protection or not?” Although the question is not exactly the same at the current Pew survey’s gun carry question, the percentage of handgun owners who are willing to affirm that they carry their gun outside the home seems higher today, reflective of the normalization of concealed carry by the shall-issue revolution.

Significantly, among the 43% who say they never carry their handgun or pistol outside their homes, 64% say they don’t carry because they don’t want to. That leaves another 36% who don’t carry for some other reason, suggesting that they might carry if they could. That is, of handgun owners, just over a quarter don’t carry their guns outside the home AND don’t want to do so. Almost three-quarters say they do or might carry outside the home.

I also suggested: A simple question about concealed carry permits would be very interesting: “Do you have a concealed carry permit?”

Alas, they did not ask this or any related question.

Also a simple question about people’s use of guns for self-defense (“defensive gun use” or DGU): “Have you ever used your gun for self-defense against another person?” Followed by, “Did you fire the gun?” Or combined, “Have you ever used your gun for self-defense against another person, whether you fired the gun or not?”

Thankfully Pew did ask a defensive gun use (DGU) question: “Not including in military combat or as part of your job, have you ever used a gun to defend yourself, your family or possessions, either by firing it or threatening to fire it.”

Although I don’t like the inclusion of “possessions,” this is sufficiently close to my recommended hybrid question that I am happy to have the result available. 7% of all adults respondents answered this question in the affirmative. That is an estimated 17,461,810 adults in the US. That is alot of people.

Significantly, 17% of current gun owners say they have used a gun to defend themselves, their family, or their possessions.

Even considering the margin of error due to sampling and possible response bias, ALOT of American adults say they carry their guns outside their homes and have used their guns (whether fired or simply brandished) in defense of themselves, others, or property.

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2 thoughts on “Exploring America’s Complex Relationship with Guns (Pew Research Center), Part 3 – Gun Carrying and Defensive Use

  1. I think the response of anti-gun people to this would be “well most purported DGUs are illegal.” Like if they were carrying in a prohibited place or if they were carrying without a permit or if it was domestic abusers who said they defended themselves with their guns. I haven’t figured out how to deal with those yet.

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