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April 26, 2011
12:01 PM

Household Gun Ownership Hits New Low--Fewer Than One Out of Three American Households Has a Gun

Gun-Free Households are a Substantial Majority, Gun-Owning Households a Shrinking Minority

WASHINGTON - April 26 - Household gun ownership in the United States has dropped to its lowest level since it peaked in 1977 according to a report issued today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) analyzing new data from the General Social Survey (GSS) conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.  The GSS has tracked household and personal gun ownership since the early 1970s and, except for the U.S. Census, is the most frequently analyzed source of information in the social sciences.

The VPC report, "A Shrinking Minority:  The Continuing Decline of Gun Ownership in America" (, comes out two days before the National Rifle Association (NRA) begins its annual convention this Thursday in Pittsburgh, PA. 


According to decades of GSS data analyzed in the VPC report--  

Household gun ownershippeaked in 1977, when more than half (54 percent) of American households reported having any guns.  By 2010, this number had dropped more than 20 percentage points to 32.3 percent of American households reporting having any guns in the home--the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS.  In 2010, fewer than a third of America households reported having a gun in the home.

Personal gun ownershippeaked in 1985, when 30.7 percent of Americans reported personally owning a gun.  By 2010, this number had dropped nearly 10 percentage points to 20.8 percent--the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS.  In 2010, slightly more than one out of five Americans reported personally owning a gun.

Male gun ownershippeaked in 1990, when 52.4 percent of males reported personally owning a gun.  By 2010, this number had dropped more than 19 percentage points to 33.2 percent--the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS.  In 2010, only one out of three American males reported personally owning a gun.

Female gun ownershiphas fluctuated within a narrow range with no recent signs of increase.  Relatively rare, female gun ownership peaked in 1982 at 14.3 percent.  In 2010 the female personal gun ownership rate was 9.9 percent.  Only one out of 10 American females reported personally owning a gun in 2010. 



VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, "This new data is the latest confirmation of the ongoing, long-term trend of decreasing gun ownership in America.  Despite the short-lived uptick in gun sales that occurred after the election of President Obama, the fact is that gun-free households are an increasing majority while gun-owning households are a shrinking minority."   


Key factors cited by the report contributing to the continuing decline in household and personal gun ownership include:  the aging of the current-gun owning population and a lack of interest in guns by youth; the end of military conscription; the decreasing popularity of hunting; land-use issues that limit hunting and other shooting activities; environmental and zoning issues that force shooting ranges to close and limit new range construction; and, the increase in single-parent homes headed by women.  

The Violence Policy Center is a national tax-exempt educational organization working for a safer America through research, investigation, analysis, and advocacy. The VPC provides information to policymakers, journalists, organizations, advocates, and the general public.

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