[dropcap]R[/dropcap]oughly 3 million Americans carry loaded handguns with them every day, primarily for protection, according to a new analysis of a national survey of gun owners published in the American Journal of Public Health.
The study is the first in 20 years to look at gun-carrying habits in a nation that has been repeatedly seen fatal mass shootings at schools, concerts and workplaces, researchers said.
The information comes from the National Firearms Survey, which the authors – a group of public health experts at the University of Washington, Harvard University and the University of Colorado – administered in 2015. The nationally representative survey was conducted online with 4,000 U.S. adults, including more than 1,500 who identified themselves as handgun owners.
The survey asked handgun owners how often they carried a loaded handgun on their person when away from home.
The peer-reviewed study concluded that roughly 9 million people carried loaded handguns at least once a month, including 3 million who carried them every day. People who carry handguns at least once a month were disproportionately likely to be conservative men between the ages of 18 and 29 residing in Southern states.
Four out of 5 of them said that personal protection was the primary reason they carried a loaded handgun. Nearly 6 percent reported being threatened by another person with a firearm at least once in the past five years. And 1 out of 5 reported carrying a concealed handgun without a permit, even in states where such a permit is required.
Two thirds said they always carried their handguns concealed, compared with 10 percent who said they always carry their weapons openly.
Some owners reported carrying a concealed handgun without a permit in states in which doing so was illegal.
Nationwide, state laws on handgun carrying have generally become less restrictive over the last 30 years, said the study.
It’s tough to know exactly how many guns are available in the United States. Most estimates of the number of guns in the U.S. use federal tallies of the firearms manufactured, imported and exported by U.S. gunmakers. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report published exactly one month before the Sandy Hook school shooting put the number of civilian firearms at 242 million in 1996, 259 million in 2000, and 310 million as of 2009.
If that 310 million number is correct, it means that the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency was an inflection point: It marked the first time that the number of firearms in circulation surpassed the total U.S. population.