People in their 70s twice as likely to own guns as those in their 20s

Grandma and Grandpa are twice as likely to be packing heat than their 20-something grandkids, but that’s not the only surprising finding from a recent Longwood study.

The study also shows people in their 70s have the highest rate of gun ownership and one of the highest rates of supporting gun control— previously believed to be an unlikely combination.

“What we found is really weird and is something that has been ignored for 30 years,” said Dr. JoEllen Pederson, assistant professor of sociology. “The research for the last 30 years has said that if you own a gun, you’re anti-gun control.”

Pederson and criminal justice majors Brad Foster ’15, of Victoria, and Jessie Coates ’15, of North Chesterfield, examined data from the 2012 General Social Survey (GSS) to see if elderly people who own guns would oppose gun control, as they expected.

Among people 70-79, the second-oldest of seven age cohorts in the GSS, 45 percent own guns and 76 percent support gun control (defined as agreeing that a police permit should be required to obtain a gun).
The highest support for gun control, 81 percent, was among the 80 and over cohort, of whom 36 percent own guns. The lowest support, 66 percent, was among the 30-39 cohort, and the 20-29 group had the lowest rate of gun ownership, 23 percent. Overall, 73 percent of respondents support gun control, and 34 percent own guns.

The biennial GSS, which surveys about 2,000 people, is highly respected as a representative sample of Americans.