In his excellent book, The Gun Gap, political scientist Mark Joslyn highlights the ways in which gun owners and non-owners live in very different social worlds. For example, non-owners are much more likely than owners to say none of their friends own guns.
Unfortunately, one of the few times these different social worlds come together is in the wake of horrific mass murders. This is probably the worst possible time for people to try to grasp a reality with which they are unfamiliar.
One way to appreciate how common and unproblematic guns are for most Americans comes from the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report, America’s Complex Relationship With Guns.
Pew Question: “Regardless of whether or not you own a gun, have you ever fired a gun?”
Nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) said YES.
In terms of population, nearly 180 million adults in America have fired a gun (72% of 250 million US population over 18). Even plus or minus 5%, that is a lot of people.
Pew also asked, “Just your best guess, at what age did you FIRST fire a gun, whether you owned it or not.” 63% of respondents answered that they were under 18 years of age when they first shot a gun.
The overall average age is not reported, but according to Pew, “Whether they have or have not personally owned a gun, the average age at which those who grew up with guns in the household say they first fired a gun is 14 years, compared with 20 years among those who didn’t grow up in a gun-owning household” (p. 27).
At a time when people use terms like “insane” and “addiction” — or worse — to characterize gun culture in America, it’s important to remember that guns are both commonly owned and generally non-problematic here. This is what I mean when I say that guns are normal and normal people use guns. And as these data from the Pew Research Center show, shooting guns is normal as well.