Americans bought an estimated 150 million guns in the past decade, as a drumbeat of mass shootings and other violence has convinced more people that owning a gun for self-defense will make them safer. In a nation where the leading cause of gun death is suicide, public health experts say a growth in gun ownership is likely to lead to more deaths, The Guardian reports. In the 10 years since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, the gun safety movement has gained some political power, while the National Rifle Association has been weakened by internal disputes and legal battles. At the same time, overall gun ownership appears to have grown. People who choose to own guns are still a minority of the population, with about a third of Americans saying they personally own a gun, and fewer than half saying they live in a house with a gun, according to survey estimates.
The total number of gun owners appears to have risen. One large survey conducted by Harvard and Northeastern University researchers estimates that the number of American gun owners rose by 20 million since 2015, from an estimated 55 million to 75 million people. The number who choose to carry guns in public also appears to be rising, with 16 million people saying in 2019 that they carried a handgun at least once a month, and six million saying they did so daily, according to a new research study. That’s roughly double the number who said they regularly carried handguns in public in 2015. Surveys over the past few decades show that an increasing proportion of Americans say they own a gun for self-defense, not hunting or recreation, said Deborah Azrael, a Harvard firearms researcher. In 2021, Gallup found, 88 percent percent of gun owners cited “crime protection” as their reason for owning a firearm.