1 in 4 handgun owners carry loaded weapons monthly

People at a gun show
(Michael Glasgow/Wikimedia Commons)

January 26, 2018

About a quarter of U.S. adult handgun owners carry a loaded firearm with them at least once a month, a new study suggests. Around a third do it on a daily basis.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, offers the most up-to-date estimates on how often handgun owners carry their weapons while loaded. One of the nation’s most heated debates centers on whether private citizens should be able to carry weapons in public, either openly or concealed on their person or in their vehicles.

Researchers surveyed adult handgun owners to gauge how often they had carried a loaded handgun on them within the past 30 days. Based on the responses, the researchers estimate that 9 million of the approximately 38 million adult handgun owners in the United States carry a loaded handgun with them monthly. Of those who carry loaded weapons, 3 million do it every day.

Here are some other key takeaways of the study, led by scholars at the University of Washington and Harvard University:

  • Among handgun owners, those who carried loaded weapons were more likely to be men, politically conservative, between the ages of 18 and 29 and residents of Southern states. They also were more likely to have grown up in a firearm-owning household and been threatened with a firearm within the past five years.
  • The researchers noticed little difference between gun owners who carried loaded firearms and those who did not in terms of race, educational attainment, household income, veteran status and whether children were present at home.
  • Of those who carried loaded handguns, about two-thirds reported always carrying them concealed while 1 in 10 reported always carrying them openly.
  • 4 out of 5 people who carried loaded guns had a concealed carry permit.
  • More than 80 percent of those who carried loaded guns said they did it primarily for protection.
  • “Handgun owners who live in states with less stringent concealed carry laws appear more likely to carry concealed than do handgun owners in states that grant substantial discretion to issuing authorities.”


Looking for more research on firearms? Check out our write-ups on online gun markets, concealed carry on college campuses, and mass murder and rampage violence.



Photo by Michael Glasgow obtained from Wikimedia Commons and used under a Creative Commons license.


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Citation: Rowhani-Rahbar, Ali; et al. “Loaded Handgun Carrying Among U.S. Adults, 2015,” American Journal of Public Health, 2018. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.304072.