The and Harvard Injury Control Research Center Survey on Women and Guns in America

A national study of women's relationship to firearms.

A woman shopping for guns
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For its 2016 "Women and Guns" project, partnered with the Harvard Injury Control Research Center (HICRC) to assess American women's histories with and opinions about firearms. More than 5,000 adults from across the United States were polled by research firm GfK, and the results illuminate a nuanced landscape for women and guns.

Methodology: Two surveys were used in preparing our special report, both conducted online using GfK's KnowledgePanel and selected using random probability address-based sampling. The first, conducted for HICRC April 2-18, 2015, consisted of a nationally representative sample of 3,994 U.S. adults, including 2,294 males and 1,655 females. The second, conducted from December 18-20, 2015, consisted of a nationally representative sample of 1,017 U.S. adults, including 520 males and 497 females.

Here, our findings:

  • Almost a third of American women—32 percent—report that they live in a household with a gun.
  • 12 percent of American women own a gun themselves. 33 percent of men do.
  • 61 percent of women who own a gun have more than one.
  • Among gun owners, women are less likely to carry their weapons in public than men are. 15 percent of gun-owning women reported carrying a loaded handgun in the last 30 days, versus 23 percent of gun-owning men.
  • 56 percent of gun-owning women think having a gun at home makes it a safer place. But only 20 percent of women in the general populace do.
  • 77 percent of gun-owning women said protection against strangers was a main reason they have a handgun.  
  • It is rare for a woman to be threatened with a gun—just one percent of women report having been threatened with a gun in the last five years.  Even fewer women—less than one percent—report having used a gun in self-defense in the last five years. 
  • When asked to rank several security measures by how much safer they would make the respondent feel, 36 percent of women ranked installing a home security system first. The next two most popular answers for women were having a large dog—15 percent—and taking a self-defense class—13 percent. Having a loaded gun in their purse/bag/car or having a loaded gun at home, followed—each cited by 12%.
  • 47 percent of women said seeing a civilian in public wearing a holstered gun would make them feel less safe. 14 percent said they would feel safer.
  • 74 percent of women believe that men and women have different mindsets about guns.
  • 10 percent of women say they think about guns roughly once a day.
  • 62 percent of women say laws governing gun sales should be stricter. 29 percent think the laws are fine as they are, and 8 percent say they should be less strict.
  • 63 percent of women want gun laws to be a major topic in the coming presidential debates.
  • 51 percent of women would vote for a political candidate who vowed to push for gun control. 47 percent wouldn't.
  • 51 percent of women want the next president to take action about guns, including 25 percent advocating for tougher gun control and 14 percent asking for better background checks and mental health screenings.
  • Terrorist attacks and school shootings have had a greater negative impact on women's feelings about guns than men's. 49 percent of women report more negative feelings about guns, while only 33 percent of men do.
  • 45 percent of women say mass public shootings have increased because of personal problems, like untreated mental illness. 30 percent of women blame society, including media coverage of mass shootings.
  • In the last five years: 
  • 18% of women have become more interested in owning a gun 
  • 18% of women have become less interested in owning a gun 
  • 17% of women have shot a gun for any reason 
  • 13% of women have gone shooting at a shooting range 
  • 5% of women have attended a gun show or expo 
  • 5% of women have given or received a gun as a gift 
  • 4% of women have gone hunting with a gun 
  • 4% of women have gotten a gun for the first time 
  • 4% of women have witnessed gun violence or the threat of it in person 
  • 3% of women have obtained one or more guns in addition to those they already owned 
  • 2% of women have lobbied for gun rights

To see's full report on women and guns, click here.