To determine if perceived risk of criminal victimization, and past criminal victimization experiences, increases the likelihood of a person owning a gun for self-protection, and to determine if defects in past research concerning the way gun ownership was measured had obscured such effects.
We analyzed data on over 2,500 U.S. adults, using different ways of measuring gun ownership, and also analyzed future plans (among persons who did not own a gun at the time of the survey) to acquire a gun for self-protection. The latter procedure avoids the causal order problem attributable to the possibility that acquiring a gun might affect victimization risks and perceived risks, as well as the reverse.
The estimated effect of perceived risk and prior victimization changed from being nonsignificant when household gun ownership was the dependent variable (as in most prior research) to being increasingly strong, and statistically significant, when gun ownership of the individual respondent for defensive reasons was measured. Further, once the causal order issue was side-stepped, risk and victimization showed even stronger, significant positive effects on planning to get a gun.
Crime affects gun ownership, in addition to any effects that gun ownership may have on crime.