Silver-Haired Gunslingers

Study shows most gun owners are over 65

Outdoor Life Online Editor

The image of a youthful thug haunting the streets of the inner city pistol-packed and ready to accost a helpless senior citizen isn't that common these days. What is, though, would be the senior citizen packing heat, having social gatherings at the shooting range and enjoying their Second Amendment right. People over 65 are now the most likely segment of the American population to own firearms.

During the 1980s and early 90s men between the ages of 40 and 49 were the dominant gun owners, but the title has been passed on to another age bracket. This is partially because when surveys were administered it was over a decade ago. Many of those questioned have since graduated from mid-life to senior citizen. Another reason might be that older folks feel threatened and are buying weaponry in greater numbers for self-defense.

According to a report from the National Opinion Research Center, 37 percent of people over 65 said they own at least one firearm, while only 24 percent do between the ages of 40 and 49. Two decades ago the numbers were inverted. Roughly 38 percent of middle-aged men had a gun, compared to 30 percent of senior citizens.

Yet, it's not as simple as hunting and self-defense. Gun-toting seniors are somewhat of a safety concern for officials. In 2002, 36 percent of suicides committed with guns were by people over 55.