Three million Americans carry loaded handguns in public each day, mainly, they say, for self-defense, according to a new survey of handgun owners published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health. One in four handgun owners — about nine million people — have carried a loaded handgun in the last 30 days, the survey also found. Of those monthly carriers, two in three said they always carried concealed, and one in 10 said they always carried openly.
The findings are based on an online survey of 1,444 handgun owners conducted in April 2015, and come as states are relaxing concealed-carry restrictions across the country. This year, Missouri, New Hampshire, and North Dakota scrapped their license and training requirements for carrying a gun, bringing the total number of “permitless carry” states to 12. In Washington, D.C., earlier this month, District officials opted to abandon a requirement that residents provide a “good reason” for needing a license to carry a gun, rather than continue fighting a legal challenge to the ordinance.
The new research, authored by researchers at Harvard University, Northeastern University, the University of Washington, and the University of Colorado, paints a portrait of the American handgun carrier. He is most likely to be a conservative, middle-aged white male, living in a suburban Southern community, who was raised around guns and cites self-protection as the chief reason for going armed in public — yet hasn’t been threatened with a gun in the last five years. Twenty percent of carriers are veterans, and less than 30 percent have children.
A third of the survey participants had a concealed carry permit. Based on that data, the authors concluded that there are 13,680,000 people nationwide who hold concealed carry permits. That number aligns with a 2016 estimate of 14.5 million permit holders from the pro-gun economist John Lott.
Nearly a quarter of those who said they carried handguns monthly reported living in states with no permitting standards.
The survey is one of several key takeaways from a comprehensive poll of American gun ownership led by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. The Trace reported on the first wave of those findings last fall. Among the most revelatory: There are 265 million guns in circulation in America, a majority of which are handguns that have been purchased for protection against other people.