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Sharp Increase Found in Americans Carrying Handguns For Self-Defense

An estimated six million U.S. adults carried a loaded handgun with them daily in 2019, double the number who said they carried a gun every day in 2015, finds a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, reports the Guardian. The new estimates highlight a decades-long shift in gun ownership, with increasing percentages of gun owners saying they own firearms for self-defense, not hunting or recreation, and choosing to carry a gun with them when they go out in public, said ​​Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, the study’s lead author. A Supreme Court case this summer overturned a New York law that placed strict limits on public gun-carrying, ruling for the first time that Americans have a constitutional right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home. While recent surveys show that nearly a third of adults say they personally own a gun, the percentage who choose to regularly carry a firearm in public is smaller, with about a third of handgun owners, or an estimated 16 million adults, saying they carried a loaded handgun in public at least once a month, and an estimated six million saying they did so daily. Public gun-carrying has appeared to increase rapidly in recent years. The number of adults carrying a gun daily is probably even higher than the 2019 estimate, thanks to a record-breaking increase in gun sales during the pandemic, Rowhani-Rahbar said. “We have every reason to believe this is a trend that is probably going to continue,” he added. The 2019 study is the most recent available peer-reviewed estimate of how many Americans regularly carry guns in public, he said. An equivalent post-pandemic survey has yet to be conducted. While the effect of permissive gun-carrying laws on gun crime has been sharply debated, “the totality of evidence is leaning toward an association between those [permissive] policies and an increase in violence,” Rowhani-Rahbar said. The increase in self-reported handgun carrying comes as more states have passed laws to make it easier to carry a gun in public, with dozens of states removing the requirement that residents had to obtain a “concealed carry permit” in order to carry a concealed firearm.“The country has been moving as a whole, in the past two or three decades, very clearly and dramatically toward loosening gun-carrying laws,” Rowhani-Rahbar said.

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