A Factual Look at Guns in America

The firearm debate in America is a contentious one – and understandably so. Like any tool, they can be used to take lives or save them. Often times we only hear about the former, so we created American Gun Facts to show how guns are actually used by the vast majority of gun owners.

46 percent of households in America own at least one firearm

46% of U.S. Households Own a Gun

Source: University of Chicago

Approximately 460 million civilian firearms

~460 Million Guns
Owned by U.S. Citizens

1 million guns owned by us law enforcement

1 Million Guns
Owned by Police

4.5 million guns owned by us military

4.5 Million Guns
Owned by U.S. Military

Source: Small Arms Survey + New gun sales

Guns Used in Self Defense

According to the National Research Council study done during Obama’s presidency, guns are used for self defense between:

500,000 – 3 Million Times Every Year

(That comes out to 57 – 342 times every hour!)

Because many cases of self defense are not reported to the police, the real number may be on the higher end.

Guns are used for self defense between 57 - 93 times every hour
25.3 Million Americans have used a gun in self defense according to survey

An estimated 25.3 Million Americans (about 31% of gun owners) have used a gun in self defense.

Almost 80% of these incidents occurred at the gun owners’ home or on their property according to a recent survey.

In 81.9% of these self defense uses of a firearm, the gun was never fired.

31% of the time, simply telling the criminal of the firearm was enough to prevent the crime from taking place. Very few of these types of incidents are ever reported to police.


82% Never fired a shot in self defense
57% of felons are more afraid of armed citizen than a police officer

57% of felons said they are more afraid of encountering an armed citizen while committing a crime than a cop.

Source: US Dept of Justice

Criminal Acquisition of Guns

Politicians will often talk about “the gun show loophole” and make it seem as if that was a primary source of guns being used to carry out crimes in America today. However, a U.S. Department of Justice survey of prison inmates who had used a gun to carry out their crime found that only:

Only 0.8% of Criminals Purchased Their Gun at a Gun Show

Criminal Acquisition of guns Sources

Source: US Dept of Justice

79% not legal owner of gun they used in crime

79% of criminals caught with a firearm were not the legal owner of that gun

according to a study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Concealed Carry

An analysis of the FBI crime statistics found that U.S. counties that adopted
Concealed carry laws saw a REDUCTION OF:





94% of mass shootings occur in gun free zones

94% of mass shootings occur in Gun Free Zones


U.S. Rifle Stats

Whenever people start trying to ban guns, “assault” rifles such as the AR-15 are usually where they start. However, the number of homicides committed with rifles in the U.S. is very low.

There are approximately 20 million rifles in circulation in the U.S. today.

Yet, they were only used to commit 364 murders in 2019.

20 Million rifles owned by us citizens

Things That Kill More People Than Rifles

Here are a list of 5 things politicians could ban that would actually save more lives than an assault rifle ban.
You are nearly twice as likely to be murdered by being punched or kicked than you are from being shot by a rifle.

Homicides using rifles vs knives, hammers, bats, fists, feet, and hands
Fists, Hands & Feet600 Murders
Knives1,476 Murders
Clubs, Hammers & Bats397 Murders
Falling From Stairs1,307 Accidental Deaths
Falling Out of Bed650 Accidental Deaths
Data from FBI & MongaBay. Rifle homicides in 2019 were 364.

Police vs. Armed Citizens

Law enforcement can be invaluable if you are in a life threatening situation, but they are not always around.
Citizens have recently surpassed police in the number of justifiable killings of a criminal to protect their life or the life of another person.

Justifiable Killings each year by police vs citizens of the USA (Chart)

See Interactive Chart

When the average school shooting lasts just 12 minutes, every second of response time saves lives.
How do police compare with armed citizens in this aspect?

Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement

Response Time: 18 Minutes
Size: 813,500 Officers

Armed Citizen

Armed Citizens

Response Time: On-Site
Size: 81.7 Million Armed Citizens*

*Number of Armed Citizens calculated by multiplying 32% gun ownership rate x 255 Million Adults

Contact Your Representative

Make sure they are informed on the issues and know your opinion.


  • 2021 National Firearms Survey. William English. July 16, 2021. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3887145 (PDF)
  • Crime Prevention Research Center. “UPDATED: Mass Public Shootings keep occurring in Gun-Free Zones: 94% of attacks since 1950” June 2018. https://crimeresearch.org/2018/06/more-misleading-information-from-bloombergs-everytown-for-gun-safety-on-guns-analysis-of-recent-mass-shootings/ (PDF)
  • FBI. Crime in the United States. 2019. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8.xls (PDF)
  • Gallup. “What Percentage of Americans own guns?” Nov 13 2020. https://news.gallup.com/poll/264932/percentage-americans-own-guns.aspx (PDF)
  • Kids Count Data Center. “Total population by child and adult populations in the United States”. https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/99-total-population-by-child-and-adult-populations#detailed/1/any/false/1729,37,871,870,573,869,36,868,867,133/39,40,41/416,417 (PDF)
  • Macrotrends. “U.S. Murder/Homicide Rate 1990-2022” https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/murder-homicide-rate (PDF)
  • Monga Bay. “Most Common Causes of Death Due to Injury in the US” https://danger.mongabay.com/injury_death.htm (PDF)
  • National Research Council 2013. Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18319. (PDF)
  • National Sheriffs Association. “EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY TO DECREASE LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSE TIME” February 28, 2016. https://www.sheriffs.org/content/embracing-technology-decrease-law-enforcement-response-time (PDF)
  • NORC at the University of Chicago. “One in Five American Households Purchased a Gun During the Pandemic”. March 24, 2022. (PDF)
  • NSSF. “NSSF RELEASES MOST RECENT FIREARM PRODUCTION FIGURES” Nov 2020. https://www.nssf.org/articles/nssf-releases-most-recent-firearm-production-figures/ (PDF)
  • Small Arms Survey. “Global Firearms Holdings. ” March 29, 2020. https://www.smallarmssurvey.org/database/global-firearms-holdings (PDF)
  • Social Medicine. “Gaps continue in firearm Surveillance: Evidence from a large U.S. city Bureau of Police”. https://www.socialmedicine.info/index.php/socialmedicine/article/view/852 (PDF)
  • Statista. “Number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. from 1986 to 2019”. October 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/215395/number-of-total-firearms-manufactured-in-the-us/ (PDF)
  • Statista. “Number of justifiable homicides by law enforcement officers and private citizens in the United States from 2007 to 2020” https://www.statista.com/statistics/251894/number-of-justifiable-homicides-in-the-us/ (PDF)
  • University of Chicago Law School. David B. Mustard & John Lot. “Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns.” 1996. https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1150&context=law_and_economics (PDF)
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Police and Detectives”. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm (PDF)
  • U.S. Department of Justice. “The Armed Criminal in America – A Survey of Incarcerated Felons.” July 1985. (PDF)
  • U.S. Department of Justice. “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016”. January 2019. (PDF)

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