Gun ownership has reached a record high among American voters, according to an NBC poll published Tuesday. More than half of respondents (52%) reported that they or someone in their household owned a gun. This percentage is the highest since NBC began asking the question in 1999.
Gun ownership rates have risen sharply over the past decade, the poll suggests, with just 42% of those surveyed in 2013 claiming they or another household member possessed a firearm. That number was up to 49% by 2019.
U.S. Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to own guns, with two-thirds of Republican voters reporting a gun in the household compared to just 41% of Democrats and 45% of independents. Still, the percentage of Democrats who said they or a family member had a firearm increased 11 points over the last decade.
U.S. Black voters have seen the biggest increase in gun ownership since the poll was last conducted in 2019 – from 24% to 41% – while the increase among white voters was minimal (53% vs 56%).
Attitudes were split about gun control, with 47% stating they believed the government would go too far in restricting Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms, while 48% said they feared the government would do too little to regulate firearms.
With personal safety topping the list of reasons Americans give for owning a gun, surging violent crime rates across the nation are believed to have contributed to the increase in firearm ownership. A 2021 Gallup poll found 88% of respondents said they owned a gun “for protection against crime,” a significant increase over the 67% who answered similarly when the question was asked in 2005.
The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world and is the only nation known to have more guns than people, according to Swiss research project the Small Arms Survey. It also has the highest rate of gun homicides.
Gun control advocates argue for a cause-and-effect relationship between the two statistics. However, the gun homicide rate in Washington, DC is the highest in the U.S. and cities like Chicago regularly see over a dozen gun deaths per week, despite strict gun control laws in both cities.
The issue continues to polarize the nation as President Joe Biden continues to campaign for a ban on assault weapons – even though a study by the RAND Corporation found no evidence such a ban would reduce gun violence or homicide rates.
This year has seen 609 mass shootings, according to gun control advocacy group the Gun Violence Archive, which defines the term as an incident where four victims were shot, either injured or killed, not including the shooter. Most recently, a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio on Monday, injuring four people before turning the weapon on himself.
U.S. Tops 500 Mass Shootings This Year
The number of mass shootings in the U.S. surpassed the 500 mark over the weekend, according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which averages to almost two mass shootings a day.
In September, the Denver Police Department posted an alert on X (formerly Twitter) confirming a shooting that left five people injured, which was the 500th incident of the year.
Just hours later, El Paso police reported that they were investigating an early morning shooting in East El Paso which claimed the life of a 19-year-old man and left five more injured, bringing the total number of mass shootings to 501.
According to the GVA website, a mass shooting is defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot and either injured or killed, not including the shooter.
2021 had the highest number of mass shootings in U.S. history, with 689 reported incidents, and while the numbers fell to 647 in 2022, FBI data showed a higher number of casualties.
Recently, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released its annual crime and safety report, which revealed 188 school shootings with casualties in the 2021-22 school year, more than twice the number of incidents documented a year before.
Mass shootings have been on the rise in the last decade; 273 incidents were reported in 2014.
A study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine in February indicates that gun ownership has grown in recent years, with 7.5 million U.S. adults becoming new gun owners between January 2019 and April 2021.
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, and around a third of U.S. adults say they personally own a gun. However, a poll conducted by Gallup in October 2022 reveals that the majority of Americans are in favor of gun control, with 57% supporting stricter gun laws.
The issue remains extremely divisive. According to another Gallop study, Democrats are nearly unanimous in their support for gun control, while less than a quarter of Republicans support stricter regulations.
U.S. School Shootings Doubled Last Year
School shootings in the U.S. soared to a new high in 2021-2022, doubling the previous record tallied the previous year, according to newly released federal data.
The startling findings were outlined in the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) latest annual crime and safety report released this week, which counted 188 school shootings with casualties during the 2021-2022 school year.
The report said the figure was “more than twice as high as the next highest number of documented shootings (93), which was documented the year before,” noting that 57 of the 188 incidents resulted in at least one death.
School shootings have seen a sharp spike in the U.S. over the last decade, with just 17 counted by the NCES between 2010 and 2011. Since 2015, the number of shootings has steadily increased each year, though the government said the latest numbers represent an “outlier” in the data. The statistics agency went on to warn readers to interpret the findings “with caution” given the wide variation compared to previous years.
A string of active-shooter incidents have been reported in U.S. schools in recent months, with a University of North Carolina faculty member murdered by a gunman on campus in late August. Another mass shooting at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee left six people dead and one injured in March, while a 16-year-old boy lost his life and several others were wounded in an attack during a high school football game in Oklahoma last month.