Desire for self-protection cited as reason for doubling of U.S. handgun owners carrying their weapons daily

According to a study released this month, the number of Americans who were carrying handguns on a daily basis doubled between the years 2015 and 2019, from 3,000 to 6,000.

The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) study, published on Nov. 16, also found that the number of respondents who had packed their heat on their person (not in their car) in the last month also nearly doubled, from 9 million in 2015 to 16 million.

“Proportionally fewer handgun owners carried handguns in states where issuing authorities had substantial discretion in granting permits,” the AJPH found.

The desire for self-protection is, the study’s authors reveal, the overwhelming reason respondents gave for carrying their weapons.


“Since the first of these surveys, reasons offered by firearm owners for why they own firearms have shifted from hunting and sports shooting toward personal protection,” they state. “In 1994, for example, 46% of firearm owners reported owning firearms for protection; by 2015, that number had reached 65%, and, by 2019, it had reached 73%. As personal protection became the predominant motivation for owning firearms, handgun ownership increased disproportionately from 64% in 1994 to 83% in 2021.”

“The study’s lead authors were Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, an epidemiology professor at the University of Washington; Amy Gallagher of the University of Washington; Deborah Azrael of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center; and Matthew Miller from Northeastern University, and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center,” Fox News reports.

They pointed to a lack of peer-reviewed surveys on “firearm carrying frequency.”

“Little is known about the frequency and features of firearm carrying among adult handgun owners in the United States,” they wrote. “In fact, over the past 30 years, only a few peer-reviewed national surveys, conducted in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 2015, have provided even the most basic information about firearm carrying frequency.”

The uptick in firearm carrying coincides with the loosening of carrying restrictions in a number of states:

These trends have been accompanied by a loosening of state laws governing who can carry handguns in public places. State laws regulating concealed handgun carrying are typically divided into the following types: (1) permitless: no permit is required; (2) shall issue: the issuing authority is required to grant a permit to anyone who meets certain minimal statutory requirements with no or limited discretion; (3) may issue: the issuing authority has substantial discretion to approve or deny a concealed carry permit to an applicant.

“In 1990, only 1 state allowed permitless handgun carry; at the time of this writing, that number had risen to 21,” the authors report.

They noted the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision which, last June, overturned New York’s strict gun-carrying laws.


“On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense,” they wrote.

“This ruling could further catalyze the loosening of firearm-carrying regulations in different parts of the country,” the authors cautioned, “at a time when, as our study indicates, trends in handgun carrying already point to more US adults carrying loaded handguns in public places, including without a permit when a permit is required.”

Melissa Fine


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