Gun Violence: How Worried Are Americans?
If you live in one of the nine states struck by a mass shooting in the past week, then your level of anxiety about gun violence may be through the roof. But the whole country has grown increasingly on edge as gun violence in general has continued to plague the US in recent years.
Since 2019, we’ve surveyed over 15,000 Americans—with representation from each state—to find out how worried people are about different crime and safety issues.
Our first State of Safety survey didn’t specifically ask about anything related to guns. But due to a number of spontaneous answers showing high anxiety in this area, we added questions about mass shootings and gun violence (in general) to subsequent surveys.
Here’s what America told us—and the tragic numbers driving a national concern about this ongoing issue.
Americans have a complicated relationship with guns
Concern about gun violence and mass shootings increased by 39% year over year. Guns, in general, have been showing up in survey respondents’ open answers since our first survey.
Some people rely on firearms as a form of protection, others are afraid of ongoing reports about mass shootings and other gun incidents in the news, and some are worried about gun rights being threatened.
Only 2% of Kansas respondents reported experience with gun violence and Kansas is the 39th most-concerned state in regard to gun violence.
Gun incidents are getting closer to home
What stood out this year was the number of people who told us they regularly hear gunshots in their neighborhood. People also reported more gun incidents closer to where they live.
Of all comments that mentioned guns or gun violence, 9 out of 10 expressed anxiety or fear.
10% of Indiana respondents reported experience with gun violence and Indiana is the 13th most-concerned state in regard to gun violence.
—South Carolina respondent
12% of South Carolina respondents reported experience with gun violence and South Carolina is the 19th most-concerned state in regard to gun violence.
Personal experience with a gun violence incident rose 14% year over year and nearly 4 in 10 Americans are worried about a gun violence incident 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, as of May 27.
- When it comes to concern about gun violence, New York, Georgia, and California are the most worried 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 survey respondents reported a personal experience with gun violence in the past 12 months.
11% of Louisiana respondents reported experience with gun violence and Louisiana is the 6th most-concerned state in regard to gun violence.
Some rely on guns 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 who use a form of home protection use firearms—7% less than reported in 2020.
- 38% of respondents who use a form of personal protection rely on a concealed carry firearm, a drop of 3% year over year.
- Use of firearms for protection dropped across the board between our 2020 and 2021 reports, despite record-breaking gun sales nationwide in 2020.
6% of Alaska respondents reported experience with gun violence and Alaska is the 2nd least-concerned state in regard to gun violence.
Gun violence by the numbers
Right now, the country is shaken by a spate of recent mass shootings—the US saw 16 incidents between Friday, May 21 and Wednesday May 26. Here’s a look at how the past six days compare to the rate of shootings across the country in recent years.
Gun violence statistics in the US 2018–2021*
|Year||Gun violence deaths||Gun violence injuries||Mass shootings|
*Year-to-date data for 2021 through May 25, 2021.
- Gun violence deaths in the US increased by 88% between 2018 and 2020.
- Injuries from gun violence increased 18% between 2018 and 2020.
- Mass shootings jumped 35% between 2018 and 2020.
- So far this year, 2021 has seen 32,321 deaths and injuries due to gun violence—that’s 39% of 2020’s total.
- 2021 has had 232 mass shootings as of May 25—38% of the total incidents seen in 2020.
Related articles on SafeWise
SafeWise uses data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) to track gun violence incidents. We also adhere to the GVA definition for mass shootings.
Mass shooting definition: “If four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not involving the shooter, that incident is categorized as a mass shooting based purely on that numerical threshold.”
All GVA data is current as of the date last accessed. The GVA regularly changes and updates its data as incidents are examined for accuracy.