A new survey described by The Guardian as the “most definitive portrait of gun ownership in decades” shows that 3 percent of American adults owns nearly half of the guns in the United States. The “super-owners” have amassed an average of 17 guns each.

Phil Cook, a Duke University firearms researcher and one of the authors of a prominent 1994 study of American gun ownership, praised the new research as “a very high-quality survey”.

Unlike the more frequent gun ownership polls from Pew or the General Social Survey, “it goes beyond asking whether there’s a firearm in their household and asks how many firearms are in the household”, he said. “Without knowing the answer to the second question, it’s not possible to get a estimate of the total stock of firearms in the US. …”

Overall, the survey found, gun owners tended to be white, male, conservative, and live in rural areas. Thirty per cent of conservatives said they were gun owners, compared with 19% of moderates and only 14% of liberals. The strongest predictor of gun ownership was military service. 44% of veterans said they owned a firearm.

Clear racial disparities in overall gun ownership remained, with 25% of white and multi-racial Americans saying they personally owned a gun, compared with 16% of Hispanics and 14% of African Americans.

But there was essentially no disparity in gun ownership based on income level for Americans who make between $25,000 and more than $100,000 a year. Americans who made less than $25,000 a year were less likely to own guns.

The survey found that Americans who only owned handguns were much more diverse than gun owners who owned a mix of handguns and long guns, or those who only owned rifles and shotguns. Those in the “handguns only” group were more likely to be female, non-white, and live in a urban area, and less likely to have grown up in a house with a gun.

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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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