A new study of gun ownership in the U.S. reports that Americans are increasingly interested in handguns, the types of small weapons that are easily hidden and used for self-defense, rather than rifles and shotguns used for hunting and shooting sports, the New York Times reports. The study, conducted last year by researchers from Harvard and Northeastern, found that handguns made up 42 percent of the nation’s privately owned firearms, up from 34 percent in 1994. The survey indicates that a growing number of gun owners cite personal safety as a major incentive for owning a gun. In 1994, 46 percent of respondents chose protection as the primary reason to own a gun. Two decades later, 63 percent made that selection.
The Times says the change comes at a time of conflicting narratives about gun violence. During the past 25 years, violent crime has fallen dramatically, while the number of mass shootings per year has surged. Applications for concealed-carry permits have hit records in some places, giving rise to a group of people who consider themselves part of a concealed-carry lifestyle.