Most Guns Owned for Recreation

From the March 31, 1995, statement of Tulane University criminologist James Wright before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary:

A third observation is that most of the 200,000,000 guns that are out there are owned for what I would consider to be socially innocuous sport and recreational reasons. About a third of the guns presently in circulation are handguns, the remainder rifles and shotguns. When one asks gun owners why they own guns, various sport and recreational activities dominate the responses: hunting, target shooting, collecting, and the like. Even when the question is restricted just to handgun owners, about 40% will say they own the gun for recreational applications, another 40% will say they own it for self-protection, and the remaining 20% will cite some job-related reason as the reason for them to own a gun.

Thus, in the majority, I believe gun ownership is a topic more appropriate to the sociology of leisure than to the criminology or epidemiology of violence. Unfortunately, when we seek to control violence by controlling the general ownership and use of firearms among the public at large, it at least looks as though we think we have intuited some direct causal connection between drive-by shootings in the inner city and squirrel hunting or skeet shooting in the hinterland. Or such, in any case, is the implication that the nation's squirrel hunters and skeet shooters often draw, and frankly, it's no wonder they sometimes question the motives, not to mention the sanity, of anybody who would suggest such a preposterous thing.