Objectives: To examine the size and composition of the privately held firearm stock in the US; and to describe demographic patterns of firearm ownership and motivations for ownership.
Design, setting and participants: A nationally representative household telephone survey of 2770 adults aged ⩾18 years living in the US, conducted in the spring of 2004.
Main outcome measure: Responses to questions regarding firearm ownership, the number and types of guns owned, and motivations for ownership.
Results: 38% of households and 26% of individuals reported owning at least one firearm. This corresponds to 42 million US households with firearms, and 57 million adult gun owners. 64% of gun owners or 16% of American adults reported owning at least one handgun. Long guns represent 60% of the privately held gun stock. Almost half (48%) of all individual gun owners reported owning ⩾4 firearms. Men more often reported firearm ownership, with 45% stating that they personally owned at least one firearm, compared with 11% for women.
Conclusions: The US population continues to contain at least one firearm for every adult, and ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated. Long guns are the most prevalent type of gun in the US but handgun ownership is widespread. Ownership demographic patterns support findings of previous studies.
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Funding: This research was supported in part by grants from the Joyce Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Soros Foundation.
Competing interests: None.