If you live in one of the nine states affected by a mass shooting in the past week, your level of fear of firearms may be through the roof. But the entire country has grown more and more at the forefront, as firearms in general have continued to plague the United States in recent years.
Since 2019, we have surveyed over 15,000 Americans – with representation from each state – to find out how concerned people are about various crime and security issues.
Our first State of Safety survey did not specifically ask about anything related to weapons. However, due to a number of spontaneous responses showing great anxiety in this area, we added questions about mass shooting and weapons (in general) to subsequent studies.
Here’s what America told us – and the tragic numbers that are fighting for a national concern over this ongoing issue.
Americans have a complicated relationship with guns
Concerns about gun violence and mass shooting increased by 39% year over year. Weapons have generally shown up in respondents’ open responses since our first survey.
Some people are addicted to firearms as a form of protection, others are afraid of ongoing reports of mass shootings and other gun incidents in the news, and others are concerned that gun rights are threatened.
Only 2% of Kansas respondents reported experience of gun violence, and Kansas is the 39th most concerned state in terms of gun violence.
Weapons incidents are approaching the home
What stood out this year was the number of people who told us they regularly hear shots in their neighborhood. People also reported several gun incidents closer to where they live.
Of all the comments that mentioned weapons or violence with weapons, 9 out of 10 expressed anxiety or fear.
10% of Indiana respondents reported experience of gun violence, and Indiana is the 13th most affected state in terms of gun violence.
12% of South Carolina respondents reported experience of gun violence, and South Carolina is the 19th most concerned state in terms of gun violence.
Personal experience of a gun violence incident increased by 14% year over year, and nearly 4 in 10 Americans are concerned about an incident of gun violence happening to them.
- The states that have seen the most mass shooting incidents this year are Illinois with 20, California and Texas with 18 each, and Louisiana with 15 incidents per year. May 27
- When it comes to concerns about gun violence, New York, Georgia and California are the most concerned states.
- The states that reported the most personal experience with gun violence in 2020 are Alabama (19%), New York (18%) and Ohio (17%).
- Nationwide, 8% of respondents reported a personal experience of gun violence in the last 12 months.
11% of Louisiana respondents reported experience of gun violence, and Louisiana is the sixth most concerned state in terms of gun violence.
Some rely on weapons for protection
Many Americans look to guns to protect themselves, their families, and their property. But we were surprised to find that more people use a firearm for personal protection than to keep their property safe.
- 26% of respondents using some form of home protection use firearms – 7% less than reported in 2020.
- 38% of respondents who use some form of personal protection are dependent on a hidden weapon, a decrease of 3% year over year.
- Use of firearms for protection fell across the board between our 2020 and 2021 reports despite record-breaking arms sales nationwide in 2020.
6% of Alaska respondents reported experience of gun violence, and Alaska is the 2nd least affected state in terms of gun violence.
Weapons violence after the numbers
Right now, the country is being shaken by a majority of recent mass shootings – the United States witnessed 16 incidents between Friday, May 21 and Wednesday, May 26. Here’s a look at how the last six days compare to the number of shots across the country over the past several years.
Statistics on gun violence in the USA 2018–2021 *
|Year||Deaths from gun violence||Damage to violence in weapons||Mass shooting|
|2021||17,514 *||14,807 *||232 *|
* Year-to-date data for 2021 through May 25, 2021.
- Deaths from firearms in the United States increased by 88% between 2018 and 2020.
- Damage from firearms increased 18% between 2018 and 2020.
- Mass shootings jumped by 35% between 2018 and 2020.
- So far this year, 2021 have seen 32,321 deaths and injuries due to firearms – that’s 39% of 2020’s total.
- 2021 has had 232 mass shootings on May 25 – 38% of the total incidents seen in 2020.
To find out more about gun violence attitudes, perceptions and experiences in your state, go to our reports on the safest cities or read the full report on Security in America 2021.
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SafeWise uses data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) to track incidents of gun violence. We also comply with the GVA definition of mass shooting.
Definition of mass shooting: “If four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident that does not involve the shooter, that incident is categorized as a mass shooting based solely on the numerical threshold.”
All GVA data is current from the date last accessed. GVA regularly changes and updates its data when events are investigated for accuracy.
SafeWise, “2021 State of Safety survey,” Accessed May 27, 2021.
Gun Violence Archive, “Mass Shootings in 2021,” Accessed May 27, 2021.
Archive for Gun Violence, “Past Summary Ledgers,” Accessed May 27, 2021.
Archive for Gun Violence, “General Methodology”, accessed May 27, 2021.
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