BOSTON — Nine million Americans carry a loaded handgun on themselves at least once a month, while three million take their firearm out with them daily, a new study finds.
Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston interviewed 1,444 sidearm owners, finding that nearly a quarter had carried their weapon fully loaded in the past 30 days.
Those who decided to holster their weapon were more likely to be conservative males, aged 18 to 29, geographically located in the South.
Interestingly, one’s race, income, level of education, or veteran status weren’t significant indicators of whether they were likely to carry a handgun.
Unsurprisingly, states that had more lenient concealed carry laws saw more owners who brought their weapons with them in public.
“It was especially important to study handgun carrying because about 90 percent of all firearm homicides and nonfatal firearm crimes for which the type of firearm is known are committed with a handgun,” says Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, the study’s co-author, in a university news release.
The researchers note that concealed carry permits used to be regularly reviewed and approved by local law enforcement, which has become less and less the case.
In addition, a full fifth of gun purchases in the U.S. are now made without a background check, according to lead researcher Matthew Miller.
Miller also notes how the number of guns owned has skyrocketed by more than 70 million over the last two decades to about 265 million. About half of this stock is held by only three percent of the population.
While the researchers implore the federal government to commission more research on the consequences of open and concealed carry in public, they aren’t going to hold their breath.
“With pressure from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun lobbyists, government agencies grant very little money to study guns and their impact on society,” Miller explains.
Further examining the potential dangers of firearms won’t be popular among certain gun owners and lobbying groups, but it might be necessary in the wake of some recent national tragedies.
“There is no credible evidence to suggest that allowing people to carry has any beneficial effect on crime and violence,” adds Miller. “And although some recent studies suggest there may be harmful effects, there is a lot more we need to know before we can reliably place in perspective what those harmful effects are.”
The study’s findings were published online Oct. 19 in the American Journal of Public Health.