U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Relationship Between Gun Ownership Levels and Rates of Violence in the United States (From Firearms and Violence, P 99-132, 1984, Don B Kates, Jr, ed. - See NCJ-96052)

NCJ Number
G Kleck
Date Published
34 pages
An update of prior research on the relationship between gun ownership and homicide rates reveals that for 1947 through 1978 data, the general level of gun ownership has no direct effect on the homicide rate.
However, it has an indirect effect on homicide through its significant positive effect on robbery rates, which in turn positively affect homicide rates. While 60 percent of the homicides in the the past 30 years were committed with firearms, gun ownership among the law-abiding poses no direct risk of crime or violence in the community. Thus the only justification for disarming the majority of the population is to deny violence-prone persons easy access to firearms owned by the law-abiding. General levels of ownership either of all gun types, handguns only, or long guns only are all positively affected by crime rates. Although most gun ownership is motivated by recreational and sport concerns, a significant part of it is oriented toward protection of the self, family, and home, and is a response to reported rates of crime, sometimes to prior victimization, and to the fear of victimization that these engender. These conclusions probably apply to both the law-abiding and the nonlaw-abiding, although research has not distinguished between the two groups. Eight tables and 57 footnotes are provided.