More than half of the nation’s voters now live in a gun-owning household.
NBC News unveiled the results of its latest national survey on Tuesday. The poll found that 52 percent of registered voters say they or someone in their household owns a gun. That’s the highest-ever percentage of voters who acknowledge being in a gun-owning household since the outlet began tracking the question in 1999.
“In the last ten years, we’ve grown [10 points] in gun ownership,” Micah Roberts, who works for the poll’s creator Public Opinion Strategies, told NBC News. “That’s a very stunning number. By and large, things don’t change that dramatically that quickly when it comes to something as fundamental as whether you own a gun.”
The poll results provide the latest empirical evidence of a surge in American gun ownership rates. The chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent bouts of civil unrest, and a sharp uptick in violent crime led 2020 and 2021 to set a series of gun sales records. Industry survey data suggests that first-time gun buyers made up an unprecedented share of the sales spike over that time. The NBC survey departs from earlier polls that have shown only modest increases in gun ownership since 2019 and provides more evidence that industry accounts have been accurate.
The outlet noted that the last time it polled gun ownership, before the pandemic in 2019, 46 percent of Americans reported living in a gun-owning household. In February 2013, the survey found that the share was 42 percent.
The poll also found evidence of another phenomenon the industry and previous polling have pointed at during the past few years: a rise in minority gun ownership. NBC found that 41 percent of Black voters now say they or someone they live with owns a gun, up 17 percentage points from 2019. White voters continue to be most likely to report living in a gun-owning household at 56 percent. But that number increased by just 3 points from 2019.
Two-thirds of Republican voters polled said they or someone they live with owns a gun, compared with 45 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats. Republicans and Democrats both experienced an 11-point increase in reported gun ownership over the last ten years, according to the poll. But Independent gun ownership remained flat.
The poll offered less insight into whether increased gun ownership among voters had changed their view on gun laws. Respondents were nearly evenly split on whether they were more concerned the government would go too far in restricting gun rights or not do enough to regulate access to firearms. That represents a slight shift towards concerns over restricting gun rights from when the question was asked in 2019 and late 2017. However, a majority voters were more concerned about their gun rights from late 2015 through mid-2017.
Still, the results from 2015 through 2023 represent a significant departure from the first time the question was asked in 1995. At that point, voters were more concerned about the government not doing enough to regulate gun access than they were about it infringing gun rights by a margin of 58 percent to 35.
Alan Gottlieb, head of the Second Amendment Foundation, celebrated the new numbers as evidence of a “cultural shift in America.” He said people shouldn’t be surprised by the increase in reported gun ownership and pointed to concerns over violent crime and police department staffing shortages as likely motivators.
“More people, of all backgrounds, are taking personal responsibility for their safety and that of their families,” he said in a press release.
Still, just nine percent of respondents currently report being single-issue voters on the subject of guns.
The NBC News poll was conducted Nov. 10-14 and surveyed 1,000 registered voters. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.