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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds More Guns Now Being Purchased for Self-Defense Than Recreation

Little attention has been paid to gun and ammunition manufacturers, dealers, and the industry lobby. In a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine led by the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), researchers determined that there has been a shift towards more lethal weapons that appear to be designed primarily for self-defense, rather than recreational use, such as hunting, target shooting, or other forms of recreation.

“Our research suggests that guns are increasingly being viewed as having a primary role in self-defense, rather than in use for hunting or sport,” explained lead researcher Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH.

“Public health practitioners need to understand and accept the increasing view among gun owners of firearms as a means to security and freedom. Only by acknowledging the value that firearms have in the lives of gun owners can public health practitioners develop programs and policies that respect the desire to own weapons for self-defense, while at the same time mitigating the firearm violence that is ravishing our communities.”

Using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for all 50 US states for 1990 to 2015, as well as FBI data from National Instant Background Checks, investigators identified trends in the type and caliber of firearms being manufactured in the US from 1990 through 2014. They found that the number of firearms manufactured in the US for domestic commerce ranged between three million and three million per year between 1990 and 2005, but then grew exponentially, from 3.2 million firearms in 2004 to a peak of 10.3 million in 2013.

An important outcome of the study is that it shows how monitoring trends in firearm production over time can provide insights into changes in consumer demand that reflect industry marketing practices and/or changes in societal norms regarding guns and their role and value, the authors said.

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