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90 Loaded handgun carrying among adults in the united states: results of a national survey
  1. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar1,
  2. Deborah Azrael2,
  3. Vivian Lyons1,
  4. Joseph Simonetti3,
  5. Matthew Miller4
  1. 1US University of Washington
  2. 2US Harvard University
  3. 3US University of Colorado
  4. 4US Northeastern University


Statement of Purpose Little is known about why, how frequently, or in what manner US adults carry loaded handguns. We sought to describe these characteristics of firearm carrying, and examine to what extent carrying behaviour is related to state laws regulating concealed carry permits (Unrestricted, Shall-Issue/No-Discretion; Shall-Issue/Limited-Discretion, May-Issue).

Approach We conducted a probability-based, nationally-representative, online survey of US adults aged ≥18 years in 2015. Handgun owners were asked if they had carried a loaded handgun in the past 30 days, the number of days they had carried, whether they had carried openly or concealed, and their primary reason for carrying.

Results 24% (95% CI: 21%–26%) of the 38 million US handgun owners carried a loaded handgun in the past 30 days; among those, 35% (95% CI: 29%–41%) did so every day. Most carried primarily for protection (81%; 95% CI: 76%–86%) and had a concealed carry permit (79%; 95% CI: 73%–84%). Of those who carried, two-thirds always carried concealed (66%; 95% CI: 60%–72%) and 11% (95% CI: 7%–15%) always carried openly. The proportion of those who carried concealed was 21% (95% CI: 12%–35%) in Unrestricted, 25% (95% CI: 21%–29%) in Shall-Issue/No-Discretion, 20% (95% CI: 16%–24%) in Shall-Issue/Limited-Discretion, and 9% (95% CI: 6%–15%) in May-Issue states.

Conclusion 1 in 4 adult handgun owners in the US carry a loaded handgun and most do so for personal protection. Of those, about 1 in 3 carry every day. Proportionally fewer handgun owners carried concealed loaded handguns at any time in the past month if they lived in states with laws that allow law enforcement to exercise notable discretion in issuing carrying permits.

Significance Findings provide empiric evidence for the frequent occurrence of loaded handgun carrying among adult handgun owners, especially in states with less stringent firearm carrying statues.

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