The #1 Reason Why People Buy Guns

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Every year for the past several years, record numbers of people are buying guns. Over 5 million people were first-time gun buyers last year. According to the FBI, there were 2,237,496 NCIS background checks in January 2024 alone. Even discounting background checks associated with concealed carry permit applications and those for people who own multiple guns, there are still a lot of people buying guns.

Where and Who You Ask Matters

In any study, who you ask makes a difference in what answer you get. Asking people who live in different kinds of environments will result in different answers, as will age, gender, and ethnicity. If you asked people in large urban areas why they were buying guns, you would get a different answer than if you asked in rural areas. If you ask people in Wyoming, you will get a different answer from New Jersey.

It’s all very personal. Keeping that in mind, most of the statistics I will be using in this article come from a study of American adults conducted in June 2023 by the Pew Research Center, as well as some statistics from the FBI. So why do people buy guns? There are several reasons, but differences aside, one in particular accounts for why most people buy guns.

Gun Ownership in America

It is estimated that there are 466 million guns in America. According to the Pew study, 32% of Americans say they personally own a gun, and there is at least one gun in 45% of all American homes. Research indicates that 58% of all gun owners are men, and 42% are women. There is no category for non-binary, they/them gun owners (yet), but I’m sure there are a few out there.

Gun ownership in America skyrocketed in 2021 because of the government’s overreaction to COVID-19 and the riots and social anarchy after the death of George Floyd. Since then, it has somewhat tapered off but is still going strong. There are several reasons people buy guns.


Unfortunately, hunting has declined in popularity in the United States. It is estimated that over 13 million hunting licenses are sold in the United States each year. That may sound like a lot, but in a population of 336 million, that amounts to about 4% of the population. There is also no way to determine how many people actually used their hunting license. The majority of hunters are white males over the age of 18.

Statistically, only 32% of gun buyers named hunting as the main reason they owned a gun. Another 20% said it was a secondary reason. The decline in hunting is bad news for wildlife conservation and fish and game budgets. Hunting is the primary means of managing larger game species like deer and elk and, in many cases, the major funding source for state fish and game departments. So, the people condemning hunting and trying to stop it through protests and over-regulation are doing more harm to wildlife and the environment than good. Go figure. Most guns owned for hunting are rifles and shotguns, although a few will be handguns.

Shooting Sports and Collecting

Shooting sports is a broad category that includes everything from trap and skeet to USPSA/IPSC competition to plinking. I also included collecting under this category. Essentially, any reason for buying a gun that isn’t hunting or strictly for self-defense. In other words, just for the fun of it.

Guns owned for shooting sports include shotguns for trap and skeet, rifles for sports like 3-gun and carbine competitions, precision rifles for long-distance shooting, and handguns for various types of competitions. Guns for plinking run the gamut from rimfire guns to the usual selection of range toys. Collecting includes everything you can imagine, from cowboy reenactment guns to military rifles and handguns. It also includes those of us who just have a lot of different types of guns that we can’t seem to resist buying, not that we try that hard. Around 30% of gun owners say sport shooting is the primary reason they own guns, and 15% say they own guns as part of a collection.


Self-defense is the major factor behind the recent surge in gun ownership in America. A full 72% of U.S. gun owners say protection is the reason they bought a gun. Only 19% said it was a secondary reason, indicating that people have very strong feelings about the need to protect themselves and their loved ones. This is no surprise, given the chaos engulfing our cities and suburbs.

We are told that violent crime has decreased in recent years. However, a visit to the FBI Crime Data Explorer site reveals this message: “2021 Expanded Homicide Data includes fewer homicides due to an overall decrease in participation from agencies that are not yet reporting via NIBRS,” meaning homicide is underreported to the FBI. Further, the FBI site indicates that there was an increase in homicide in 2020 and that the homicide rate for 2022 is higher still. Contrary to popular belief, as per the FBI site, homicide rates reported by the FBI do not include “deaths caused by negligence, suicide, or accident; justifiable homicides; and attempts to murder or assaults to murder, which are classified as aggravated assaults.”

Add to that all the instances of assaults, rapes, robberies, home invasions, and carjacking, and it is easy to see why people are choosing to arm themselves for protection. The recent increase in gun purchases has also seen a shift from primarily white males to larger percentages of women and people of color buying guns. More people in urban areas are also buying guns because of high crime rates. In terms of their attitude towards guns, 81% of gun owners say that having a gun makes them feel safer, and 71% say they enjoy owning a gun.

What Do Non-Gun Owners Say?

Surprisingly, attitudes towards guns among non-gun owners are not as negative as the antis would have us believe. Nearly half of U.S. adults who do not currently own a gun (47%) say they could see themselves owning one in the future. Of course, more unarmed Republicans (61%) say they could see themselves owning a gun someday than Democrats (40%).

What is truly interesting about these statistics is how they differ from what the government and anti-Second Amendment groups like Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety say. If you believe them, Americans are turning against gun ownership, and state legislatures are making gun ownership more difficult across the board. While that may be true in places like California and New Jersey, the reality is that at the time of this writing, 28 states currently allow permitless carry, with another (Louisiana) about to pass it. I won’t use the term delusional, but it does come to mind.

Likewise, liberal politicians at every level continually downplay crime and liberal policies that do not prosecute criminals while claiming that guns are the problem, not criminals and poor leadership. But the more the government tries to crack down on legal gun ownership, the more guns are sold to people who don’t feel safe.

The Numbers

As I said earlier, statistics can be misleading, but for what it’s worth, here is a breakdown of American gun ownership according to the Pew Research study. The numbers might be a little different if you use a different source, but they would probably be close.

Why People Buy Guns

Nearly three-quarters of gun owners say protection is the main reason they own a gun. Others say it was one of the reasons they own a gun.

* Note: Totals do not add up to 100% because some people checked more than one reason when answering the survey.

Who is Buying Guns in America

* This represents people who do not personally own a gun, but someone else in their household does.
A couple of things jump out when looking at these numbers. One is the lower percentage of urban dwellers who own a gun than rural dwellers. For one thing, more people who live in the country grew up with guns. I live in the country and regularly hear people shooting target practice. I know all my closest neighbors own guns, and I would be very surprised to find more than a couple of households in my area where there isn’t a gun present. It’s a cultural thing.

The difficulty of obtaining a gun in many large cities is another factor affecting gun ownership. In some states, like Illinois and New York, you need a permit just to purchase a gun, and the state maintains a firearms registry. That makes it slower and more difficult to buy a gun. It’s also ironic that states with strict gun laws have very high crime rates. Something liberals refuse to acknowledge.

The difficulty in legally buying a gun in a large city no doubt also affects the number of minorities who own guns since large inner-city areas often have higher percentages of people of color. Strict gun laws and high costs are a form of prejudice and racism that disproportionately restricts minorities and low-income families from owning a gun for self-defense.

Another interesting aspect is education level. Anti-2A proponents like to claim that most gun owners are uneducated rednecks who don’t know any better than to like guns. But that is a biased and flawed characterization based on liberal elitism. The statistics show that among gun owners, education level doesn’t play a significant role. I know lots of gun owners, and we don’t go around checking each other’s education level because we don’t care, and it doesn’t matter anyway. The truth is, I’d rather have my so-called uneducated neighbors next to me in a bad situation than the highly educated people I used to work around in Washington DC.


The bottom line is that most Americans who own guns buy them for protection. A full 72%. Add to that the over 5 million people who bought their first gun last year, and it is clear that Americans have lost faith in their governments and the police to protect them from criminals. Rather than fulfilling their responsibility to safeguard society, governments are not only failing to do so but are making the problem worse. Liberal policies like defunding the police and the open border, along with prosecutors who refuse to prosecute criminals and judges who release them back onto the street, are making our society more dangerous every day. Americans see that, and despite government attempts to disarm law-abiding citizens, people are making their feelings and fears apparent by buying more guns to defend themselves and their loved ones.

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