The study also found that the number of guns in American homes jumped from 192 million in 1994 to 265 million in 2015, an increase of 70 million.
Perhaps most surprisingly however, is that the proportion of female gun owners is on the rise, as fewer men are purchasing weapons, growing from 9 percent in the 1994 survey, to 12 percent last year. Researchers suggest that this is part of a broader trend in the US which, while being statistically safer in terms of crime nationwide, found that people are purchasing more weapons for self-defense.
“The desire to own a gun for protection – there’s a disconnect between that and the decreasing rates of lethal violence in this country. It isn’t a response to actuarial reality,” Matthew Miller, a Northeastern University and Harvard School of Public Health professor and one of the authors of the study said.
They determined this by looking at the specific types of gun sales, and noticing that handguns are now making up a greater proportion of American gun sales. The lead author of the study, Dr. Deborah Azrael, said this is being driven by “increasing fearfulness.”
“If we hope to reduce firearm suicide, if we hope to reduce the other potential dangers of guns, my gut is, we have to speak to that fear,” she said.