Only 3 In 5 Gun Owners Have Received Firearms Training

A new study finds gaps in America’s gun safety.

RichLegg/Getty

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Forty percent of America’s gun owners have not received any formal firearms training, according to a new study from the University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health.

The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, is the first of its kind in more than 20 years. In those two decades, “that number hasn’t meaningfully changed at all,” says Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, an associate professor of epidemiology at UW and the study’s lead author. In 1994, two surveys found that about 56 to 58 percent of US gun owners had received formal firearms training. “Now that number stands at about 61 percent,” says Rowhani-Rahbar. “It basically shows that, while training programs do exist—those that the NRA is running and that other gun advocacy groups are running—the reality is that they’re not reaching a larger fraction of gun owners than they used to many years ago.”

The study uses data from a nationally representative online survey of nearly 4,000 people. It found that among gun owners, men reported receiving more training (66 percent) than women (49 percent). People who purchased a gun for protection were far less likely to have received training (57 percent for handgun owners and 47 percent for long gun owners) than those who owned guns for hunting and sport shooting (approximately 68 percent). Training includes instruction on gun storage, safe handling, and preventing accidents.

Only 14 percent of non-gun owners living in gun-owning households said they had received training. “Why care about that?” Rowhani-Rahbar asks. “We have plenty of evidence that shows that living in a gun-owning household is associated with a higher risk of suicide and unintentional injuries. It’s important they know something about firearms.” Only 15 percent of gun owners had been exposed to any material related to suicide prevention. 

The survey was not designed to evaluate how effective current firearms training is. “That is the next step—to compare those who have received training to those who haven’t and see whether it actually translates to saving lives,” says Rowhani-Rahbar. 

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate