OWN HALF THE COUN­TRY’S 265 MIL­LION GUNS

Study: De­sire to own gun, per­cep­tion of risk don’t cor­re­late

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - TECH - Rick Jervis @mrR­jervis USA TO­DAY

De­spite steep de­clines in vi­o­lent crimes, an es­ti­mated 70 mil­lion firearms were added to Amer­i­can ar­se­nals the past two decades, ac­cord­ing to a new land­mark study on gun own­er­ship.

Over­all, Amer­i­cans own an es­ti­mated 265 mil­lion guns — more than one gun for every Amer­i­can adult, ac­cord­ing to the study by re­searchers at Har­vard and North­east­ern uni­ver­si­ties. Half of those guns — 133 mil­lion — were in the hands of just 3% of Amer­i­can adults, “su­per own­ers” who pos­sessed an av­er­age of 17 guns each, it showed.

The sur­vey, the most au­thor­i­ta­tive since 1994, is un­der peer re­view for pub­li­ca­tion in a trade jour­nal.

Re­searchers found that the top rea­son peo­ple owned guns was for pro­tec­tion from other peo­ple, even though the rate of vi­o­lent crime has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly the past two decades, said Deborah Azrael, di­rec­tor of re­search at the Har­vard In­jury Con­trol Re­search Cen­ter and one of the study’s au­thors.

Azrael said the study tried to up­date num­bers and trends. Sep­a­rate re­ports on back­ground checks and gun stor­age, based on the same sur­vey, are sched­uled to be re­leased later this year.

“In a coun­try where 35,000 peo­ple a year die by firearms, we haven’t been able to come out with a sur­vey on gun vi­o­lence for 20 years,” she said. “That’s a real fail­ure of pub­lic health and pub­lic pol­icy.”

Over the years, Congress has pulled fund­ing from agen­cies like the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion to de­ter in-depth re­views of gun vi­o­lence, said Daniel Web­ster, a gun vi­o­lence re­searcher at Johns Hop­kins Amer­i­cans, es­ti­mated, own guns. of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion owned guns last year, com­pared with 25% own­ing guns in 1994. are stolen each year. of gun own­ers in Amer­ica are white or mul­tira­cial, com­pared with 16% of His­pan­ics and 14% of African Amer­i­cans. are es­ti­mated na­tion­wide, a 71% in­crease from 65 mil­lion hand­guns in 1994. Univer­sity.

The Har­vard/North­east­ern study is im­por­tant be­cause it ex­am­ines the num­ber of guns found in re­spon­dents’ home and their mo­ti­va­tion for own­ing them, he said. “Peo­ple’s per­cep­tion of risk and need to have a gun does not cor­re­late with their ac­tual risk,” Web­ster said.

The su­per own­ers con­sisted of an es­ti­mated 7.7 mil­lion Amer­i­cans and owned between eight and 140 guns each. Nearly half of gun own­ers owned just one or two guns.

More than half of all sui­cides in the USA — or about 21,000 a year — are com­mit­ted with a firearm, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

Philip Cook, a Duke Univer­sity re­searcher and co-au­thor of the land­mark 1994 study, said Azrael’s study is im­por­tant in fur­ther un­der­stand­ing gun deaths. “The very idea that some­thing as fun­da­men­tal as many how many Amer­i­cans own guns is only mea­sured once every 20 years seems sur­pris­ing,” he said. “But that’s the world we live in.”

55 MIL­LION 22% 300,000600,000 GUNS 25% 111 MIL­LION HAND­GUNS

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