A third of Americans own firearms, and they are more likely to do so because of "gun culture" than a need for protection, according to a study in Injury Prevention, which, as the journal's name suggests, approaches gun ownership from a public-health angle. The researchers say gun owners tend to be married white males over 55, but there's a lot of variation among regions in gun ownership rates, with Delaware the lowest at 5.2% and Alaska the highest at 61.7% (see where your state ranks here). The researchers say people exposed to "social gun culture," which includes having friends and family who owned guns, were more than twice as likely as others to own a gun themselves, and to say that their social circle would think less of them if they didn't have one.
To reduce gun ownership—and consequently gun-related deaths and injuries—the study's authors say policymakers should consider tackling gun culture, which sounds like a pretty tall order to Duke University behavioral sciences professor Jeffrey Swanson. "It's important to realize that this is the country we live in," he tells HealthDay. "Guns are domesticated. We celebrate them, and have a lot of them. It's part of the landscape. All we can do is try and figure out who are the dangerous people who should not have guns. There actually is some common ground on this need, shared by both gun owners and non-owners." (Another study linked falling gun ownership rates to the declining popularity of hunting.)