1 in 3 Americans Owns a Gun

An assortment of handguns.
Do guns make people safer? (Image credit: Creative Commons | Joshuashearn)

Nearly one in three adults in the United States owns at least one gun, according to a new study.

In the study, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 4,000 adults in the United States on gun ownership. The researchers found that about 29 percent of respondents said they owned at least one gun.

Most of the gun owners were white men older than 55, and the majority of them were married, the researchers said.

The rates of gun ownership varied from state to state, with the lowest rate in Delaware, at about 5 percent, and the highest in Alaska, at nearly 62 percent.

The researchers found that both the rates of gun ownership and gun deaths were higher in states with looser gun-control policies, compared with states that have stricter policies.

The new findings are important in showing the toll that gun violence in the United States takes on people's lives and health, the researchers said. In 2013, a total of 33,636 people in the United States died, and 84,258 were injured, due to gun violence, the researchers said.

Although people typically focus on fatalities caused by gun violence, it is also important that the public pay attention to the damage that gun violence inflicts on people who are shot and survive, as these individuals often suffer permanent injuries, said study author Bindu Kalesan. "Nobody talks about that," said Kalesan, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York.

"For every three people who die of a gun injury in the U.S., there are seven people who survive," but whose lives are often severely compromised because of their injuries, she said. [Fight, Fight, Fight: The History of Human Aggression]

This is particularly true for children who are wounded accidentally by gun violence. "They live, and they are hailed as heroes, but at the same time they are in and out of the hospital, with multiple surgeries," Kalesan said.

Some victims of gun violence may even initially survive a gunshot, but die much later as a result of the injuries. Kalesan said that while conducting the research, she met a girl who survived a gunshot, underwent 15 surgeries over the next eight years and recently died.

Previous research has shown that owning a gun increases a person's risk of dying from gun violence. About 300 million guns are currently in use in the United States, according to estimates.

In comparison with people who did not own guns, gun owners in the study were more than twice as likely to be associated with other guns owners, either family or friends, or to take part in social activities that involved using guns, the researchers found.

The survey also showed that 30 percent of the people in the study said that they would like to buy a gun in the future, Kalesan said.

The new study was published today (June 29) in the journal Injury Prevention.

Follow Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on Twitter. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Staff Writer