A majority of Americans at least sometimes worry about being impacted by gun violence, and they are most likely to address those concerns by discussing gun safety with family, seeking out further instruction, or obtaining weapons themselves.
The Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll on Tuesday examining how Americans have been affected by gun murder and suicide. The poll found 58 percent of the adults sometimes worried they or someone they loved would “be a victim of gun violence.” 84 percent said they’d done something to protect themselves from that possibility, with talking to family about gun safety, buying a weapon, and practicing shooting being the most common responses.
“Overall, most adults say they feel either “very” (41%) or “somewhat” (41%) safe from gun violence in their neighborhoods,” the group said in a press release. “The groups most likely to say they feel “not too safe” or “not safe at all” from gun violence in their neighborhood are also among the groups most likely to say they worry about someone they love being a victim of gun violence.”
The results show Americans are concerned about firearm-related violence, and they want to be able to arm themselves in response to perceived threats.
The poll asked 1,271 adults about a wide range of experiences with firearms. Just over half said they or a family member had experienced either being threatened with a gun, witnessed someone being shot, or lost somebody in a gun-related murder or suicide. The respondents were more likely to carry a firearm in self-defense, at 28 percent, than to have been threatened with a gun, at 21 percent, or witnessed someone being shot, at 17 percent. Four percent said they had personally been shot.
It also found an equal number of respondents reported shooting a gun in self-defense. The U.S. Census reports there were around 259,297,719 American adults as of July 2022. The Kaiser survey suggests 10,371,908 have either been injured by a gun or shot one in self-defense at some point in their lives.
That is more than double the rate of self-defense incidents identified by Georgetown University Professor William English in his 2021 National Firearms Survey. That survey, which polled 16,708 gun owners, identified about 4.5 million adults who reported firing a gun in self-defense. However, the National Firearms Survey found the vast majority, 81.9 percent, of defensive gun uses did not involve a gun being fired. English identified approximately 50 million total defensive incidents involving a firearm or about 1.6 million per year.
Kaiser’s poll found minorities were both more likely to report experiencing gun violence and being concerned about it more often.
“Gun-related injuries and deaths, as well as worries about gun violence, disproportionately affect people of color in the U.S.,” Kaiser said. “Three in ten Black adults (31%) have personally witnessed someone being shot, as have one-fifth of Hispanic adults (22%). One-third of Black adults (34%) have a family member who was killed by a gun, twice the share of White adults who say the same (17%). In addition, one-third of Black adults (32%) and Hispanic adults (33%) say they worry either ‘every day,’ or ‘almost every day’ about themselves or someone they love being a victim of gun violence (compared to one in ten White adults). And one in five Black adults (20%) and Hispanic adults (18%) feel like gun-related crimes, deaths, and injuries are a ‘constant threat’ to their local community, more than double the share among White adults (8%).”
Kaiser’s poll found a majority of all Americans reported talking to their children or family members about gun safety. However, White Americans were more likely than Black or Hispanic Americans to have gone hands-on with a firearm.
“Nearly half of White adults (47%) say they have taken a gun safety class or practiced shooting a gun, a substantially larger share than Black adults (34%) or Hispanic adults (32%) who say they have done so,” Kaiser said in its press release.
The survey was carried out between March 14th and the 23rd. It was done online and by telephone among a nationally representative sample, with 1,198 responses in English and 73 in Spanish.