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Americans own an estimated 265 million guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to a new survey portraying US gun ownership in two decades. But the survey estimates that 133 million of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.
The data suggests that American gun ownership is driven by an “increasing fearfulness”, said Dr Deborah Azrael, a Harvard School of Public Health firearms researcher and the lead author of the study. “If we hope to reduce firearm suicide, if we hope to reduce the other potential dangers of guns, my gut is, we have to speak to that fear,” she said.
According to the Guardian, the survey estimates that America’s gun stock has increased by 70 million guns since 1994. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who own guns decreased slightly from 25% to 22%.
The proportion of female gun owners is increasing as fewer men own guns. These women were more likely to own a gun for self-defense than men, and more likely to own a handgun only.
The survey, conducted by public health researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities, is based on an online survey of nearly 4,000 Americans in 2015.
The results line up with the broader trends of some previous surveys: even as gun sales hit records highs under Barack Obama’s administration, the total proportion of Americans who say they own guns has fallen slightly, leaving more guns in relatively fewer hands.
Another interesting finding of the survey – between 300,000 and 600,000 are stolen in the United States every year – for an average of more than 1,600 guns stolen every day. The number of gun deaths in the United States averages 33,000 a year, and the number of gun injuries averages 120,000 a year. The researchers note that the 1,600 guns stolen on average every day provide a weapon for each and every instance of gun violence – death or injury — in the United States each year, several times over.