How male and female gun owners in the U.S. compare

About six-in-ten gun owners in the United States are male (62%). Still, about one-in-five women (22%) report that they own a gun. While these women resemble their male counterparts in some respects, their views on and experiences with guns often differ from those of male gun owners.

Here are seven ways that female and male gun owners compare, based on a recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,269 gun owners.

1Women who own guns tend to become gun owners at a later age than men.On average, women who own a gun or have owned one in the past report that they first got their own gun when they were 27 years old, compared with an average of 19 for men who own or have owned guns.

2Women are more likely than men to cite protection – rather than recreation – as the only reason they own a gun. Male and female gun owners are about equally likely to cite protection as a reason why they own guns: About nine-in-ten in each group say this is a reason, and 65% and 71%, respectively, say it is a majorreason. But far larger shares of women than men who own guns say protection is the only reason they own a gun: About a quarter of women who own guns (27%) are in this category, compared with just 8% of men.

3Women who own guns are less likely than their male counterparts to say they go sport shooting or hunting, though substantial shares of women do so. About four-in-ten female gun owners (43%) say they go shooting or to a gun range often or sometimes; 58% of men who own guns say the same. And while 37% of male gun owners say they go hunting at least sometimes, 28% of women who own guns do so.

The differences between male and female gun owners when it comes to participating in hunting or shooting are linked, at least in part, to early exposure to these types of activities. Among current gun owners, 52% of men say they went hunting and 46% say they went shooting at least sometimes when they were growing up, compared with about a quarter of women (23%) who say they participated in each of these activities when they were young. The gaps in the shares of men and women who now go hunting or shooting virtually disappear when those who did and did not hunt or shoot growing up are considered separately.

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