Site menu:


January 2013 - Volume 19, Number 1


Click Here for a pdf verison.



Gun Ownership: Just Facts

This research is based upon the most recent data in 2010, updated 2012. It is our mission to minimize subjective information and to provide highly factual content.


Firearm General Facts

* Firearms are generally classified into three broad types: (1) handguns, (2) rifles, and (3) shotguns. Rifles and shotguns are both considered “long guns.”
* A semi-automatic firearm fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled and automatically loads another bullet for the next pull of the trigger. A fully automatic firearm fires multiple bullets with the single pull of the trigger.

2010 Households With a Gun Adults Owning a Gun Adults Owning a Handgun
Percentage 40-45% 30-34% 17-19%
Number 47-53 million 70-80 million 40-45 million


* As of 2009, the United States has a population of 307 million.
* Based on production data from firearm manufacturers, there are roughly 300 million firearms owned by civilians in the United States as of 2010. Of these, about 100 million are handguns.
* In the same poll, gun owners stated they own firearms for the following reasons:


Protection Against Crime 67%
Target Shooting 66%
Hunting 41%

Crime and Self-Defense

* Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States during 2008. About 10,886 or 67% were committed with firearms.
* Based on survey data from the Department of Justice, roughly 5,340,000 violent crimes were committed during 2008. These include aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders. Of these, about 436,000 or 8% were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun.
* Based on survey data from a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year.
* A 1982 survey of male felons in 11 state prisons dispersed across the U.S. found:
• 34% had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”
• 40% had decided not to commit a crime because they “knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun”
• 69% personally knew other criminals who had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim.”


Vulnerability to Violent Crime

* At the current rate, roughly one in every 240 Americans will be murdered.
* A Justice Department study based on crime data from 1974-1985 found:
• 42% of Americans will be the victim of a completed violent crime (assault, robbery, rape) in the course of their lives
• 83% of Americans will be the victim of an attempted or completed violent crime.



* In 1982, the city of Chicago instituted a ban on handguns, barring civilians from possessing handguns except for those registered prior to the law. The gun had to be re-registered every two years or owners would forfeit their right to possess it. In 1994, the law was amended to require annual re-registration.
* In June 2010, the Supreme Court ruled (5-4) that Chicago’s ban is unconstitutional.
* Since the outset of the Chicago handgun ban, the Chicago murder rate has averaged 17% lower than it was before the law took effect, while the U.S. murder rate has averaged 25% lower.
* Since the Chicago handgun ban, the percentage of Chicago murders committed with handguns has averaged about 40% higher than it was before the law took effect.
* In 2005, 96% of the firearm murder victims in Chicago were killed with handguns.


Firearm Accidents



* In 2007, there were 613 fatal firearm accidents in the United States, constituting 0.5% of 123,706 fatal accidents.



* In 2007, there were roughly 15,698 emergency room visits for non-fatal firearm accidents, constituting 0.05% of 27.7 million emergency room visits for non-fatal accidents that year.
* These emergency room visits for non-fatal firearm accidents resulted in 5,045 hospitalizations, constituting 0.4% of 1.4 million non-fatal accident hospitalizations.


Source: “Gun Control Facts,” James D. Agresti and Reid K. Smith, Just Facts, September 13, 2010, revised December 10, 2012, <> Reprint permission granted December 21, 2012.



FACTS & OPINIONS is one of our quarterly membership newsletters, arriving in January, April, July, and October. It consists of short articles of public interest with an emphasis on current issues.


FACTS & OPINIONS is published by Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, research and educational institute, whose activities are supported by contributions from private individuals, corporations, companies, and foundations. The Institute does not accept government grants.


Contributions are tax-deductible under sections 501(c)(3) and 170 of the Internal Revenue Code.


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used: "Reprinted by permission from FACTS & OPINIONS, a quarterly newsletter of Public Interest
Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute.


If you have an article you believe is worth sharing, please send it to us. All or a portion of your article may be used. The articles in this publication are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry, because IDEAS DO MATTER.



All of our publications are available for sponsorship.  Sponsoring a publication is an excellent way for you to show your support of our efforts to defend liberty and define the proper role of government.  For more information, please contact Public Interest Institute at 319-385-3462 or e-mail us at