Do people feel safer if they own guns in the home?

Mar 29, 2014 | Featured

Despite the constant onslaught exaggerating the risks of guns in the home (see also here), YouGov has a new survey finding that “42% of Americans would feel safer with a gun in the house, while 20% would feel less safe.” And it turns out that they have good reason for feeling that way (see here and here).
Whether one breaks down the survey by gender, age, race, family income, or region, all groups feel safer with a gun in their home. Among racial groups, whites have the biggest gap between feeling safe or not, followed by blacks and then Hispanics.
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The survey also asks people if they own a gun or have ever fired a gun. Whether people feel safe with a gun in their home is very closely related to whether they have own a gun or have ever fired one. Not too surprisingly, males are much more likely to own or have fired a gun than females and they are much more likely to feel safer in their home with a gun. More interestingly, whether people own or fired a gun goes up and down with different income levels and whether people feel safer with a gun goes up and down in the same pattern.

Unfortunately, the poll also asks a very poorly worded question on guns outside the home: “Do you think you would feel more safe or less safe if you knew more people were carrying guns?” The results there are the opposite of what is found for guns in the home. The problem here is “more people were carrying” is an extremely broad category. For example, the question would also include more gang members carrying guns around. Consistent with that is only 4% of blacks feel safer with more people carrying guns outside the home. Only 12% of Hispanics feel safer. The answers given to this type of question varies dramatically based on whether the question includes if the person carrying the gun has a concealed handgun permit. Whites are much more likely to have fired a gun than and Hispanics the least, similarly, whites are more likely than Hispanics to feel safer with a gun in their home.


1 Comment

  1. MaverickNH

    “Do you think you would feel more safe or less safe if you knew more people were carrying guns?”

    Indeed, if you are from NYC, Chicago or other city that grants very, very few Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permits, then you might very well think people around you carrying guns must be criminals. Had they simply worded the question “… legally carrying guns?” would we have seen different statistics? John has often noted that CCW holders have a lower rate of “criminality”, as measured by CCW revocations due to any infractions, than does the population at large.

    But thinking of attitudes on guns and NYC, a slight digression: ACLU indicates ( that NYPD’s Stop’n’Frisk program produced 1 gun in 879 stops in (~0.11%) and a ~6% arrest rate in 2011. Odd statistics – are police finding the few NYC residents with CCW permits among the predominantly Black & Hispanic populations targeted for Stop’n’Frisk searches? Or are they just seizing the guns and letting those caught go free? If the statistics are real at all, I might suggest that latter, as it’s all about catching guns, not catching criminals, in NYC politics. Once the gun is in custody, problem solved!

    It costs NYC little to seize a gun but lots of money to arrest, hold, prosecute and plea-bargain a criminal back out onto the streets. Plenty of reward to NYPD for getting guns off the streets but none for putting criminals in jails – they’re already overcrowded with non-violent drug offenders.

    We’ve all heard the wry comment that those who support gun control might just put a sign in the front yard saying “Proudly, a Gun-Free Home”, supposing that would help criminals identify low-risk targets. But it looks like the odds of identifying a Gun-Free Home are 2-fold higher when there is a Democratic political sign in the front yard. Probably much higher than 2-fold, as most who support gun control are not very politically active. A GOP election sign in the front yard is probably as good as a “Protected by Smith & Wesson” sign on the door! But careful, you crooks, you might have an Independent supporting a Democratic candidate.

    A thorough multi-variate analysis would include an assessment of vehicle (pick-up truck or Prius), pet choice (big dog vs small dog/cat), flag on the mast (American or USMC vs seasonal/holiday), etc. Last I checked, there were no laws explicitly prohibiting criminals from profiling potential “customers”.


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