Gun ownership has been on the rise in America for years, and it does not appear that it is slowing down anytime soon. A recent poll indicated that Americans are still purchasing firearms at record rates.
Meanwhile, concerns about rising crime rates remain constant, with an alarming number of Americans indicating that they are afraid to walk the streets alone.
This is no coincidence. Even further, it shows that more people recognize that they are responsible for their own safety.
An NBC News national poll revealed that record numbers of Americans report owning firearms.
More than half of American voters -- 52% -- say they or someone in their household owns a gun, per the latest NBC News national poll.
That's the highest share of voters who say that they or someone in their household owns a gun in the history of the NBC News poll, on a question dating back to 1999.
In 2019, 46% of Americans said that they or someone in their household owned a gun, per an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. And in February 2013, that share was 42%.
"In the last ten years, we've grown [10 points] in gun ownership. That's a very stunning number," said Micah Roberts of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm that co-conducted the poll with members of the Democratic polling firm Hart Research.
"By and large, things don't change that dramatically that quickly when it comes to something as fundamental as whether you own a gun," Roberts added.
Accompanying this data are heightened fears of becoming a victim of violent crime. Gallup released the findings of a survey showing that worries about crime are the highest they have been in three decades.
Forty percent of Americans, the most in three decades, say they would be afraid to walk alone at night within a mile of their home. This indicator of crime fears last reached this level in 1993, when, during one of the worst crime waves in U.S. history, 43% said they would be afraid. Between that year and 2021, an average of 35% of adults have feared for their safety within a mile of home, with the annual results ranging between 29% and 39%.
Even more telling is that a significant percentage of respondents reported avoiding certain activities due to fears about crime.
Fear of crime most commonly constrains people's mobility and possibly consumerism by preventing them from driving into certain areas of the town or city where they live -- 34% say they have ever avoided doing this. Relatedly, 31% say they avoid visiting central areas of nearby cities. Only compounding the potential damper crime puts on economic activity, 17% avoid going to shopping malls.
Some Americans’ physical wellbeing is also jeopardized, as 31% say fear of crime has ever prevented them from taking walks, jogging or running alone in their area, and 17% say it keeps them from going to local parks.
Americans may also be missing out on entertainment or social interactions, as fear of crime prevents large segments from attending concerts and other crowded events (28%) and talking to strangers (28%).
Respondents were shown a list containing these precautionary behaviors and asked to select all that apply to them. Overall, 66% of adults have avoided at least one of the activities due to fear of crime, while 34% say they have avoided none of them.
According to a mid-year report on crime rates from the Council on Criminal Justice, there are valid reasons why Americans should be concerned, even if there are indications that violent crime is on a downward trend. The study showed that the number of homicides decreased by 9.4 percent in the first half of 2023. However, the rate is still 24 percent higher than it was in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking the data into account, it is not surprising that more Americans are becoming gun owners. Even though there are promising signs, the rate of crime is still far too high for many to feel comfortable engaging in normal activities. Moreover, it seems that it is even more clear that relying on law enforcement will not keep people safe, which is why people are taking their safety into their own hands.