A recent analysis by the Pew Research Center provides us with insight into why Americans own guns and how the reasons why gun ownership is important have changed over the decades.
First, let's open by looking at American crime statistics for the years 1999 and 2011, a similar timeframe to the reference years used by Pew:
Total Population – 272,690,813
Total Crimes – 11,634,378
Per Capita Crime Rate – 0.043 crimes per million persons
Total Violent Crimes – 1,426,044
Per Capita Violent Crimes – 0.0052 violent crimes per million persons
Total Population – 311,591,917
Total Crimes – 10,266,737
Per Capita Crime Rate – 0.033 crimes per million persons
Total Violent Crimes – 1,203,564
Per Capita Violent Crimes – 0.0039 violent crimes per million persons
You can see that, on a per capita basis, the number of overall crimes and the number of violent crimes have both decreased over the period from 1999 to 2011. In the case of violent crimes, the per capita rate has dropped by 25 percent over the period, a rather substantial drop.
Now, back to the Pew analysis. As you read through these statistics, keep in mind that 57 percent of Americans state that they do not have a gun in their household. Only 24 percent of Americans state that they personally own a gun and 13 percent state that someone in their household owns a gun.
The survey conducted in February 2013 asked American households why they owned guns, if indeed they did. Here are the results for both 2013 and 1999:
According to the survey, the reasons why gun-owning American households own guns have changed markedly over the decade and a half since 1999. A substantial 49 percent of American households that owned a gun in 1999 owned one (or more) for hunting. By 2013, this had dropped to 32 percent. In contrast, only 26 percent of American gun-owning households in 1999 owned a gun for protection; this rose sharply to 48 percent in 2013.
Of the Americans that personally own guns, 79 percent state that owning a gun makes them feel safer and only 7 percent state that owning a gun makes them feel uncomfortable. Of all gun-owing households (where someone in the house owns a gun), 64 percent state that having a gun in their house makes them feel safer.
If you look back to the beginning of this post where I look at overall crime statistics and violent crime statistics for 1999 and 2011, it is apparent that on a per capita basis, crime rates are falling. This is happening at the same time that an increasing number of American households own a gun primarily because it provides them with a sense of protection.
Odd, isn't it? I guess it's all about perception….and fear.
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