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Firearm ownership and acquisition in California: findings from the 2018 California Safety and Well-being Survey
  1. Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz1,
  2. Rocco Pallin1,
  3. Matthew Miller2,3,
  4. Deborah Azrael2,
  5. Garen J Wintemute1
  1. 1 Violence Prevention Research Program, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California Davis, Sacramento, California, USA
  2. 2 Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3 Bouve College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, Violence Prevention Research Program, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA; nkravitzwirtz{at}


Objective To describe the prevalence of and factors associated with firearm ownership; the types, subtypes and quantity of firearms owned; and when, where and why firearms were acquired in California.

Methods A cross-sectional analysis of a state-representative, probability-based, internet survey of California adults was conducted in September–October 2018 (n=2558; completion rate 49%). Household firearm ownership was ascertained for all respondents; personal firearm ownership was ascertained only among respondents who reported living in a home with firearms; and information on the types and quantity of firearms owned and details about recently acquired firearms came from firearm owners only.

Findings Roughly one in four (25%, 95% CI 22% to 28%) California adults live in a home with a firearm, including 4.2 million adults—14% (95% CI 13% to 16%) of the adult population—who personally own a firearm. These owners collectively own an estimated 19.9 million firearms (8.9 million handguns). Approximately half (48%, 95% CI 34% to 61%) of the firearm stock in California is owned by the 10% (95% CI 6% to 14%) of owners who own 10 or more firearms, though more than half (54%, 95% CI 47% to 62%) of owners in the state own only one or two firearms. Most (69%, 95% CI 63% to 75%) owners purchased their last firearm from a firearm retailer, usually a handgun purchased primarily for protection against people.

Conclusion This study provides the most detailed and up-to-date information available on firearm ownership and acquisition in California. Results can inform firearm violence prevention efforts and public health, safety and policy development in California and nationally.

  • firearm
  • violence
  • surveys
  • public health

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the design of the study. NKW, RP and GJW drafted the manuscript. NKW and RP carried out the analyses. All authors were involved in interpretation of the data, revising the article, and provided final approval of the submitted manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported by the University of California Firearm Violence Research Centre with funds from the State of California. Additional support came from the California Wellness Foundation (award No 2014–255), the Heising-Simons Foundation (award No 2017–0447), and the University of California, Davis Violence Prevention Research Programme.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of California, Davis (IRB ID 1209062–2).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available.