Armed to the Teeth

September 3rd, 2020 - by Heather McCracken / The Rand Corporation

Gun Ownership in America

Heather McCracken / The Rand Corporation

 (April 22, 2020) — Information about how many Americans own guns, and how this varies over time and across the United States, is important for understanding the effects of gun laws on firearm ownership and other outcomes, such as firearm homicides, firearm suicides, and mass shootings.

But a key challenge for researchers in this area is that direct measures of state-level firearm ownership exist for only a few years. As a result, studies have relied on proxy measures, such as the proportion of suicides in which a firearm is used. These proxy measures may be strongly influenced by factors other than the rate of gun ownership and may not have a constant relationship with gun ownership over time.

So, to support research in this area, RAND developed a longitudinal database of state-level estimates of household firearm ownership from 1980 to 2016. These estimates are derived from a statistical model that draws on a wide range of survey and administrative data sources associated with household gun ownership. This database was first released in 2020 and is available free to the public.

Researchers can use these annual, state-level measures of household gun ownership rates to test theories about the relationship between gun ownership and crime, injury, and public policy.

Average Gun Ownership, by State

This map presents the average proportion of adults living in a household with a firearm, between 2007 and 2016.

  • Alabama 50%
  • Alaska 59%
  • Arizona 37%
  • Arkansas 50%
  • California 18%
  • Colorado 39%
  • Connecticut 18%
  • Delaware 30%
  • District of Columbia Not estimated
  • Florida 29%
  • Georgia 39%
  • Hawaii 8%
  • Idaho 53%
  • Illinois 24%
  • Indiana 40%
  • Iowa 38%
  • Kansas 43%
  • Kentucky 49%
  • Louisiana 48%
  • Maine 45%
  • Maryland 21%
  • Massachusetts 10%
  • Michigan 35%
  • Minnesota 39%
  • Mississippi 50%
  • Missouri 48%
  • Montana 64%
  • Nebraska 39%
  • Nevada 36%
  • New Hampshire 39%
  • New Jersey 8%
  • New Mexico 39%
  • New York 14%
  • North Carolina 35%
  • North Dakota 55%
  • Ohio 36%
  • Oklahoma 51%
  • Oregon 44%
  • Pennsylvania 37%
  • Rhode Island 11%
  • South Carolina 43%
  • South Dakota5 2%
  • Tennessee 46%
  • Texas 37%
  • Utah 39%
  • Vermont 46%
  • Virginia 37%
  • Washington 34%
  • West Virginia 58%
  • Wisconsin 43%
  • Wyoming 59%

Average Gun Ownership Rate per Household, 2007–2016

This figure displays mean estimated household gun ownership rates for each state for 2007 to 2016. Information on estimated standard errors for each state-year estimate is provided in the full data set.

Change in Household Gun Ownership

This chart presents the annual estimated proportion of adults living in a household with a firearm between 1980 and 2016.

How it works: Hover over or tap on a line on the chart to identify the state and year shown. To view a specific state, type the name into the field below. Up to four states can be selected at a time.

Rate of Household Gun Ownership National Average

This figure displays three-year rolling averages for household gun ownership rates in each state and the nation overall. The estimated standard errors range from 2 to 4 percentage points, depending on the state and year.

Data and Methodology

RAND developed these state-level estimates of household gun ownership using a statistical model that draws on a wide range of survey and administrative data sources. First, a small-area estimation technique was used to create state-level ownership estimates for each of 51 nationally representative surveys assessing household gun ownership rates.

Structural equation modeling was then used to estimate ownership rates from these survey-based estimates and administrative data on firearm suicides, hunting licenses, background checks, and other indicators of gun ownership. The resulting measure represents the proportion of adults living in a household with a firearm in each U.S. state for each year between 1980 and 2016. For more information about how the estimates were developed, or to download the database, see State-Level Estimates of Household Firearm Ownership.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.