Well, it appears (to no one’s surprise) that those who have been victimized by crime are more likely to own a firearm. Gallup found that Americans who were victims of criminality report higher rates of gun ownership. At the same time, the polling firm noted that their survey only asks about crime victimization within the last 12 months, leaving it open that many more have armed themselves.
In most years the survey has also asked Americans whether they personally own a gun, including in 2000, 2005, 2007-2011 and 2013-2016. The analysis is based on a combined 11,165 interviews from those surveys. Overall, an average of 17% of Americans reported being the victim of at least one of the crimes in those polls, and 29% said they personally owned a gun.
Although it is not possible to know from the survey questions whether the crime prompted the individual to buy a gun or if the person owned a gun before the crime occurred, the modest yet significant relationship between recent crime victimization and gun ownership is clear. Also, because the survey asks only about crime victimization in the last 12 months, it is possible many people victimized by crimes in the more distant past bought a gun in reaction to those crimes. Thus, the analysis may understate the relationship between crime victimization and gun ownership.
Although the analysis demonstrates a statistically significant relationship between crime victimization and gun ownership, it cannot answer why the relationship exists. An obvious explanation is some of those who have been a crime victim purchase a gun as a reaction to that event. The Gallup data do not explore when the gun purchase was made in relation to when the crime occurred, so it is not possible to know to what extent this explains the relationship.
It does not appear that those who live in higher-crime areas, and who therefore may be more likely to become a victim, are also more likely to own guns.
The firm also noted that those who have been victimized in rural America are more likely to arm themselves. The cities could be due to a mix of the culture, which is mostly liberal and anti-gun, and cost—it’s incredibly expensive to get a permit to own a firearm in cities. Moreover the background check could take months, prompting most to not protect themselves due to the bureaucratic hassles put in place in anti-gun hubs, like urban areas. Gallup may find it puzzling that those who are victims of crimes start packing heat, but it seems pretty self-explanatory. People want protection.