The top three percent of Americans own an average of 17 guns each, while 78% don’t own any guns, say researchers.
The findings come out of new research from Harvard and Northeastern University. A joint study by the two private colleges found that while overall rates of gun ownership have gone down, the number of firearms owned by Americans has gone up.
The survey of 4,000 gun owners asked respondents not just whether or not they own a gun, but how many and what types. The results reflected concentration of ownership in the hands of a small fraction of American adults.
The study says that 22 percent of American adults claim to own a firearm. This is lower than some other research surveys, such as a Pew Center survey which claimed around 31 percent and a Gallup survey which put the number at 28 percent.
The Harvard-Northeastern study puts the total number of guns in America at around 265 million.
Three percent of population owns most guns for self-protection
Many gun rights advocates are skeptical of gun-ownership surveys, and believe that many gun owners may not disclose the fact that they own firearms over the phone or to strangers.
The study in question was conducted via an anonymous online panel.
One of the study’s lead authors, Deb Azrael, said that, to him, “when I look at our survey, what I see is a population that is living in fear…they are buying handguns to protect themselves against bad guys, they store thir guns ready-to-use because of bad guys, and they believe that their guns make them safer.”
The results of the study come just days after a concealed-carry advocate, competitive shooter and NRA instructor killed a Somali terrorist who was in the midst of a stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall.
In the 1990’s, gun owners said they primarily owned their firearms for hunting and sport. The change could be a result of the perceived numbers of terrorist attacks in the 21st century.