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By David Yamane

As the age at which American adults ought to be able to buy firearms is being discussed in the wake of Buffalo and Uvalde, I want to point to some data on the age at which Americans actually get their first guns.

TL:DR version . . .

(1) For respondents who say they currently or have ever owned a gun, the average age is 22.
(2) Men acquire their first gun at age 19 and women at age 27, on average.
(3) 37 percent of those who currently or have ever owned guns first got their own gun when they were under 18 years of age.

Screen cap of Pew Research Center report, p. 25.
Screen cap of Pew Research Center report, p. 25

The data comes from the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report, America’s Complex Relationship With Guns. I doubt these numbers have shifted much in the past five years, but if you know of more recent data on this point, please let me know in the comments.

Pew Question: How old were you when you acquired your first gun?

Although Pew did not ask what motivated people to acquire their first gun, they did ask, “At what age did you first get your OWN gun.” For those who say they currently or have ever owned a gun, the average age is 22, which [as someone who never shot a gun until I was in my 40s] I find to be fairly young.

Broken down by gender, Pew finds that men acquire their first gun at age 19 on average, and women at age 27 on average. The dynamics of socialization into guns continue to differ considerably for men and women.

Looking outside the main report, we see that 37 percent of those who currently or have ever owned guns first got their OWN gun when they were under 18 years of age.

These data do not support a particular policy position on this issue. But policy should be informed by and take account of empirical reality. I find many people who rightfully want to “do something” about the problem of gun violence don’t have a good idea of how gun ownership works in everyday life for the tens of millions of non-problematic gun owners in America.


David Yamane is a professor of sociology at Wake Forest University. He is currently completing a book on American gun culture called Gun Curious and has previously discussed the 2021 National Firearms Survey on his YouTube channel “Light Over Heat.” Professor Yamane also runs the Gun Culture 2.0 blog and Twitter account (@gunculture2pt0).

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  1. I lie on any survey about firearms or Constitutional Rights or politics.
    That’s a lie. They NEVER contact me for a survey.

    • NO ONE tells the truth on such surveys. Guns or Conservative issues in general.

      Or asks non PC questions of media. Such as what is the description of the shooter/shootee at each shootin over the weekend? The world well knows but can not ask or u be racist n chit. RASIS I SAY.

    • Me either, I got my first gu, a .410 single shot, for Christmas at age 7, then the following Christmas at age 8 a 12 gauge pump. I’m 55 now and still have both.

    • Had a rather powerful air gun at 7 or 8. Could pump it 10 times. If you did, it could go through 3/8″ thick piece of glass. At 12 I had a 22LR. By 17, I had an AK with 30 round mags, and a Russian Makarov.

  2. I mean, is “your own gun” the first gun you bought as an adult? Because if I wanted a gun that wasn’t the 06 Winchester we kept for pests, I sure as heck had to pay for it myself, even if Dad did the transaction. I remember working a whole summer to buy a H&R M12 trainer back in the 70s.

  3. It’s been a while, but I think I discharged my first firearm when I was about six. I owned, as opposed to loand, a firearm when I was about ten. Never looked back.

    • I was a late bloomer. I didn’t shoot until I was about 20. One of my highschool buddies introduced me to 22 rifles. A couple years later,.I had a 22 rifle of my own. That was all I had for about a decade. Over the last fifteen years, I’ve made up for lost time. I’ve got a bunch of guns of all sorts now, but still love 22 rifles.

      I recently bought one of the CMMG 22 conversion kits for my AR15. 👍. Loads of fun

  4. I live on the other side of the pond in the UK I am now in my early 80’s. I joined the Local Army Cadet Force at the age of 14 and almost immediately startedvtraining on the LEE ENFIELD .303 SMLE and thge BREN .303 LMG. By the time I was 16 I had passed the UK TRAINED INFANTRY MARKSMAN STANDARD, which as you may know is among the highest of any armed forces, in both weapons and had range fired both the 9mm STEN and the ENFIELFD .45 Revolver and ‘dry-fired both the 2.5 Inch Mortar and the PIAT. At 16 I joined the Royal Air Force as an AIRCRAFT Fitter [Armourer Bombs and Guns] Apprentice. I spent several years as an Armourer and Smallarms Instructor and later servuied as trained Infantry in the UK Army Reserves so I am more than a little familiiar with weaponry. Since leaving bthe UK Armed Forces with th exception of some SKEET shooting and .22 Indoor Target 25yard shooting I have never had the need or the wish to own or use a firearm for any purpose and I do not know anybody else who does either withn the possible exception of 12 gauge useage. .
    If you conducted a survey in the UK about GUN OWNERSHIP most of the population would not understand whatvthe hell you werfe talking about.
    Without exception ALL the restrictions on GUN OWNERSHIP in the UK has had the overwhelming approval of the electorate. I cannot think of a single person, even those who do have permission [one of my distant nephews does have a STALKERS LICENSE for DEER] to own and use firearms, who sees such restrictions as somehow being a limitation on their PERSONAL FREEDOMS.

    • Hey, Prince Albert, nobody on this side of the pond gives a shit! Even if it is your Platinum Jubilee. We kicked your ass back across the pond twice, and back across the Gulf of Mexico once. Then we had to cross the pond. Twice. To save your ass from the Hun. Prince Albert, if you guys are such badasses, “Why did we have to have “lend/lease? Oh yeah, you guys left your shit in France when you retreated. Again.

      • Gadsden, this made me laugh. So true.
        God bless the UK, but they have some serious issues.

        • The UK is one of the most pathetically Cucked nations on earth. Sad. Apparently the men with balls either left (for America,.Australia, etc) or died in WWI or WWII.

          Never become weak like an Englishman

      • Epic post GF.

        So many truth bombs dropped AH musta thunk he was on deck of the USS Arizona @ Pearl Harbor. 😄

    • UK masses have been idiots for many many decades as demonstrated by their politics (voting habits). And your a prime example of one. And a subject.

    • Nothing more pathetic than someone reading their resume, trying to impress others. Especially if most of it is made up. Even more so when they don’t understand the subject.

    • “I live on the other side of the pond in the UK I am now in my early 80’s.”

      Now, that’s good news to hear!

      You’ll die of old age 30 years before me! Woo Hooo! 🙂

      • He will likely be cold and hungry this winter, since the UK doesn’t produce enough food to feed itself, and the overlords have intentionally destroyed the global economy. No more food or energy for the little people like Albert. They can’t even have a pellet gun to shoot pigeons for food.

    • It’s you guys fault we have the 2nd amendment. The redcoats took a giant dump on our rights to have a voice in governance. You guys wanted to tax the crap out of us, but not allow us to complain about it by forbidding representation. We got tired of the crap, and a mystery squad of men appeared in the night, and dumped all the tea you were about to rake in tax money on, in the dead of night. Then you guys tried to come over and secure our arms. Our powder and arms! Why would you do such a thing???? Thus the 2nd amendment. Hey King George – thanks for the 2nd amendment. Your crapping on our freedom, our rights, and your arrogance literally, and I mean literally, gave us the 2nd amendment.

    • Since leaving bthe UK Armed Forces with th exception of some SKEET shooting and .22 Indoor Target 25yard shooting I have never had the need or the wish to own or use a firearm for any purpose and I do not know anybody else who does either withn the possible exception of 12 gauge useage.

      Move to Westminster. Suddenly you’ll want a gun again. LOL. Also, being in your 80s, you’ll be an excellent target, for daily robberies, and random gut punches.

    • I cannot think of a single person, even those who do have permission [one of my distant nephews does have a STALKERS LICENSE for DEER] to own and use firearms, who sees such restrictions as somehow being a limitation on their PERSONAL FREEDOMS.

      Well, come one. King George didn’t think it was a limitation to tax the crap out of us while not giving us any representation in governance either. Fast forward to today, and of course those in the UK don’t see a limitation on their personal freedoms, having never had any to experience anyways. Honestly, is there anything there that you have an absolute right to? That’s right. I thought so. You can’t even train a dog to do a “hail Hitler” as a funny joke on social media without the coppers showing up to arrest you and drag you to court. Even JOKES, yes JOKES! are banned in the UK. So, no. I honestly don’t think you guys see anything as a limitation to your freedom. Because you never experienced freedom. What freedom did you ever have????

  5. Since it’s easier to get a gun than formula, according to Joe Biden…32 months old is the average age of the first firearm purchase and since according to Old Pedo Joe firearms are the #1 cause of death of children in this country it just makes sense…

  6. Does a BB gun count? I guess I was 9. My first .22 single shot was a private sale, neighbor kid got an automagic, and he sold me his single shot for $20. My first deer rifle from the sporting goods store at age 15 – $75 for a brand new Remington 94. My first pistol at age 23, purchased at a hardware store for fun – can’t remember what the little .380 cost me, but it wasn’t much. Of course, I had other guns to use, any time I wanted to use one. Almost free access to a 30-06 around age 13, multiple shotguns around age 12. There were some, but few restrictions on the use of Dad’s guns.

    Gadsden Flag’s post reminds me of the very first time I fired any weapons. I was either 4 or 5 years old, Dad and a friend were doing some target shooting with a .22 rifle and a .25 pistol. I was permitted to fire both. WHEEEE! That was fun!

  7. I’ve never not owned a gun. As a baby, my family stored my Winchester 94 under my crib. I still have it, still hunt with it. It’s over a century old now. I think I got my first revolver at 15 or so. It was a 7.5″ Ruger Blackhawk in .357 Magnum. I don’t have that gun anymore but I have another just like it.

    • We had family guns. Mostly rimfires and shotguns. I bought my own gun at a yard sale when I was 13 and rode it home on my bike. It was a bubba’d 03 Springfield with an ammo can full of surplus ball ammo.

      The second one I consider to have been mine was a Mossberg .22 rifle that I also bought at a yard sale that same summer. I added an H&R .22 revolver and an old break action S&W .38 that fall.

      At that time my father was mail ordering guns from Sears for his own use. Fill out a mail order form and have your new gun delivered right to your front door.

      Guns have never been a problem. People have always been the problem.

        • It was. That 03 shot like a champ. My dad did not own any centerfire rifles. He used a rimfire or a shotgun for all his gun needs. I was making my own money so if it was not drug or alcohol related he was good with it.

          The only time he objected was when a local gun store was selling Lee Enfield jungle carbines for 40 bucks each. I wanted one. He didn’t like the fact that they were foreign and he didn’t know anything about them or the ammo. So I got the 03 a week or so later.

    • Sounds about right for me, as best I can recall. It all started with a single shot .22 I bought to entertain the kids, and went from there. But who’s counting?

    • oh geez… they don’t get it.

      “It would have been simpler to know what the actual question was.”

      For those who don’t get it, it’s only the best move – ever.

      • “For those who don’t get it, it’s only the best move – ever.”

        I found the movie… Meh.

        Now the book series, oh, yeah! 🙂

  8. I married into my first guns. My wife was the original gun nut. She had several handguns and a rifle. After I retired from the military we went to the gun store where I bought my first gun. I was 43 years old.
    Now I pretty much have taken over our guns. And have purchased a combination of about 20 handguns and long guns.

    She does encourage me!!!

    I may be a late bloomer about owning guns. But I always knew what the second amendment was for. And it’s not about hunting.

    • I shot my first gun a 22 rifle. I was 8 years old. At my Stepmother’s Family Ranch. It was her brothers gun. And later air rifles in the Boy Scouts. I liked guns. But my parents did not.

  9. I “purchased” my first gun at 11, though technically family members purchase for me, since the FFL guys wouldn’t sell it to me. I made multiple purchases via the legal “family” straw purchase method until I was 18, and had even acquired a few via the birthday/Christmas/special events as gifts before I was 18.

    Interestingly, and purely by luck, have I managed to avoid the FFL’s Future Gun Confiscation Itemized lists, colloquially Form 4473 because once I turned 18, I didn’t have the disposable money to buy new and shiny….. and now I avoid the FFL’s and only do private sale to keep my personal property off of these government confiscation lists; can’t verify and validate the confiscation lists, if they don’t have the self-reported confiscation lists .

    40 years later, and still not a single 4473 filled out in my name, and those from family when I was under 18 were all legal straw purchased or through private sales. So out of pure luck none of my guns have ever been listed on the FFL’s future confiscation lists for the government oath-violators.

    For the few old timer family members that are still alive 40 years later, the paperwork probably is missing on who they “sold” it to, and the ones who are no longer around, definitely don’t have any paperwork who they “gave/sold” it to, it never even went home with them for the wife/kids to know the gun even existed, we’d go to the range for the day with the new gun and they’d drop me off at home with my now 100-300 rounds tested firearms.

    I feel bad for the kids now-a-days as this type of purchasing is getting harder to keep under wraps and avoid the government agent FFL’s confiscation lists.

  10. I traded a throwing knife for my first gun at 12. Carried it to my very violent school until I traded it off.

    • Was given my 1st and only deer shotgun at the age of 12. It has only shot at deer in those 44 years. 1st .22 pistol was at the age of 23.

  11. My Mom hated guns so Dad did not push that very far. When some of us kids would go off camping with Dad (she also hated camping, how handy was that!) he’d always bring along his ancient old .22 bolt action single shot (had to cock it each round, which took a fairly strong hand). I think I fired my first few shots at about six, when we were visiting some of Dad’s side of the clam in rural open lands. First fired a twelve bore pump at about twelve. I thought that one was FUN. Got pretty good at busting up those orange discs as Uncle flang them accross the desert for me. Then my little sister (1 year younger) said MY TURN. She missed almost all of them. So Uncle gave Dad the flinger and HE picked up his scoped M1906 bolt gun, the one he brought back from the War in the Pacific. (he’d been sniper there..) and made a hunting stock for out of one of the trees on the farm that blew down. As Dad flung the pigeons, and Sister missed, Uncle would pick them off as they flew away. VERY impressive when they exploded, I had NO idea how difficult that would be. UNcle was on her right, Dad was flining to her left. He had to wait till she had missed before he’d fire. He got almost every one after she’d missed, too.
    I bought my first long gun at 18, walked into a gun store in my Grandparent’s smallish town, picked one out, bought it. Cash on the table, Never even asked my name or date of birth, or even what state I lived in. Totally legal.

    I had to sell off a bunch of stuff when I fell on hard times some years back, before my statid stupe decided we had to tell Uncle about every gun we buy or sell, and fill out HE can have an inventory of what I have. SO I have no idea where they ended up. Some were on some of the online boards, sent to FFL’s in other states, but I’ve no record of that. Private sales before they got shut down worked too. So I don’t know what I had that went where. Too bad so sad. Even the ones I sold face to face through an FFL I question whether those can really be traced until THEY get their complete searchable database set up and populated. SO if they come round asking me about THIS ONE I probably cannot help them at all. Went away some years back, no record of where. Dont eve remember what year I offed that one, either.

    I do know a young man who, when he was eleven, fired an M1 Garand for the first time He nearly broke his face, he was grinning so hard. DAD, I WANT ONE!!!! then big sister tried it, then Mum. Dad shrugged his shoulders and delclared “well I guess we’ll be getting hold of CMP here in the next few days. He did and they did. the family now own four very fine Garands in 7.6 x 59. The boy got into competition shooting at 13, joined the club’s rifle team and competed at 15. He did VERY well, helping the club win some matches.

  12. Excluding toys, my first firearm was a loaner from the American Taxpayer ~20y/o. Excluding that, I bought my first rifle sometime around 23 but couldn’t take possession / finish the transfer until several months later when I went home on leave. My dealer kept it under lock and key for me. It has long since been sold off.

  13. Raised around shotguns, rifles & handguns.
    Trained withM16, M60, LAW & hand grenades &
    Bought my first hand gun when I was sixty,
    Thanks BLM!

  14. I like that the question asked is about “acquiring” one’s first gun. So the gangsta banger can say “I been carrying one for da boyz since I been 11.”

    Of course, I doubt they actually went into da hood to ax anybody.

  15. Bought a WW2 souvenir model 1910 from a veteran when I was 15. I found out after this wasn’t permitted so I left it with my friend’s Father. Also a veteran.

  16. We too had family guns, and fishing poles, and I’ve had one or the other in hand for as far back as my memory goes. When my grandparents downsized from a farm to a mobile home and RV, Grandpa handed around a couple pistols to family, and moved the gun cabinet and remaining contents to our house. He had a nice collection of WW2 bringbacks, three of which I have, with two more promised to me by an aunt. My first actual firearm purchase was a Hawken kit at age 18, because we didn’t have a muzzleloader, and then the Contender at age 21, because I wanted a hunting handgun, with additional barrels soon to follow. As it was prior to the boating accident, I’d have to take my shoes off, plus the wife’s and daughter’s, to have sufficient fingers and toes to number the collection. May have needed some of Mom’s too, thinking about it.

  17. What is the average age of the school shooters? I bet it’s under 21. Clearly they got their first gun while in high school, if not before.

    Just saying

  18. First gun was a single shot .22 hand-me-down from Grandpa at about 11 yo. Bought a new single shot 20 gauge when I was 17 I think, from Western Auto. Yeah, that was before the GCA.



  20. Started shooting a .22 with my dad at 5 or 6. Got my first .22 at 9 and my first .410 at 13. Bought my first rifle in ’73 at 15 years old with my own money. It was a Marlin 336 30 30 from Western Auto.

  21. Got the use of under supervision of an old Sears .22 rifle at age 8. Was given a Marlin/Glenfield .22 of my own at age 10. Purchased my own with my own money at 16. A second/third/who knows, hand Winchester Model 94 30-30. Had used Dad’s Mauser M98 as a deer rifle at 14.
    Still have the Marlin and the Mauser. Traded the 30-30 off on a Ruger 44 Carbine.

  22. 7 for the .22 my father bought me at Western Auto. It was kept in my room and I was responsible for it. First thing he taught was safety and maintenance. My Drill Sgts were easier to please for maintenance.

  23. I was a late starter, age 26.

    It was a stainless Mini-14 Ranch Rifle with one of those ‘sterile’ folding stocks they used on the .556.

    Neatest part of that gun was that the last 3 digits of the serial number were .223…

  24. I fired my first gun when I was 5 years old. My dad took me out into the woods behind our house, we sat down at the base of a big tree in the shade, he took a bolt action .22 out of the case he was carrying and started teaching me about it, then handed it to me, instructed me, and I pulled the trigger for the first time. I didn’t know at the time that was going to be my first rifle.

    A lot of kids where I lived then, starting around age 6, could be seen toting their .22 bolt action rifles into the woods to favorite shooting spots to plink cans or shoot targets, and do a little hunting with bagging a rabbit or squirrel. I was no different and at age 6 I joined them. A little later I got a semi-auto .22 and became the areas most popular kid among us gun kids because I was the only one to have a semi-auto and all the other kids wanted to shoot it.

    No one got shot, we all knew the rules and the safety aspects and were suitably trained and instructed, never had a problem with the sheriff showing up to take our guns away (in fact if they did happen by on patrol and saw us they wanted to try out our rifles and provided even more instruction and safety reminders). If you got a new gun, you could bring it to school for ‘show-n-tell’ and let the other kids turn green with envy. We had gun safety and training classes in our school, every Wednesday at PE instead of dodge ball or some other activity we had gun day with an instructor and got to do a little target practice behind the school with supplied bolt action .22’s.

    Then when I was 10, by then most of the kids by then in our circle of gun kids had gotten semi-auto 22’s. But something more significant happened when I was 10… one of the kids in my circle, his dad died of cancer. A while after his dad died, one night a man broke into their house and attacked his mom and Leon used his .22 semi-auto rifle to shoot and kill the intruder and save his moms life. This was a significant point in time for all of us gun kids, its when we realized the first time there really are monsters in this world and if you are not prepared to defeat them yourself they will hurt and kill you.

    Today the anti-gun industry want the monsters to win.

  25. Why does Italy have less gun violence???? The reasons may surprise you.

    Italy does have tough gun laws but they also are a socialistic country

    A social safety net

    After 12 years of living in Italy, I can definitely say that the country has its flaws. But one thing Italy has going for it is a fairly broad and dense social safety net, which takes care of its most vulnerable citizens. We have a national healthcare system that, while imperfect, ensures that people receive medical attention, including for mental health disorders and needed medications—largely free of charge. (Critics of universal healthcare will argue that we pay higher taxes, and we do. But we don’t pay for private health insurance, and no one sacrifices treatment, loses their home, or goes bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills.)

    Studies have established a link between social welfare programs and reductions in violence, perhaps because when people’s most basic needs of shelter, healthcare, and sustenance are met, they are less prone to violence. In Italy, the national healthcare system—combined with rigid protocols for gun ownership—make it less likely that violent or mentally disturbed people will fall through the cracks or get their hands on guns.

    • Not relevant to the post.

      Your not relevant either.

      The Socialists will off you soon as your used up.

    • Canton Ohio has magically transformed into Italy? Have you ever told the truth? Just once?

      • Notice all he does is copy and paste. A true socialist, doesn’t do his own work and relies on others to do the actual work.

    • ‘Why does Italy have less gun violence????…. ‘

      This dimwit has now taken to asking his own questions to answer?……..

      What a total and complete moron.

      Wear that sash and crown proudly now lil’dtard, you earned them. 🤣

    • They eat much more healthy (and tasty) food than we do too..We eat mostly crap, fast food and away from family…And they probably don’t have anywhere near the violence in their TV and mass media that we do.. Which equals better mental health for them…Our mental health is going to HECK, in this country, because of what we tolerate and allow…This younger generation is only making it worse..

    • dacian, the Dunderhead. As usual, irrelevant. Why don’t you move to Italy? Seems they have a rather high crime rate with the Mafia folks running around.

    • Why does Italy have less gun violence???? The reasons may surprise you.

      Who cares????????????????????????????? North Korea has less gun violence too. Don’t want to live there either.

  26. IF the prohibition of people under 21 passes this is the type of gun control I suggest..
    NO ONE under the age of 21 volunteer to place a government issued weapon in their hands to go fight globalist wars, to make them richer…Its mighty funny they trust an 18 year old to go to foreign lands to kill and die, at the whim of a politician…Also, if they wait till they turn 21, they can drink a beer when they choose to do so..That way pesky officers and anal NCOs don’t treat them like children and send them to N.J.P…Then, the Globalist and military industrial complex would panic, when their riches start waning…They desperately need young cannon fodder…When the money starts disappearing, they will pay a judge or court to strike it down, to get things back to normal..

  27. I was 13 years old when I bought my first gun with my own money.

    Now don’t get excited. Technically speaking, one of my parents bought it. When I completed an NRA Hunter Safety Course, I was allowed to have my first gun. It was a Ruger 10/22, paid $49 for it brand spanking new at Jensen’s Custom Ammunition in Tucson, AZ.

    I wanted the Remington Nylon 66 more but it was constantly selling out the day they’d come in. The Ruger 10/22 was a lucky choice, still have that gun and still shoot it. Beat up from mountain trails, backpacking. Countless thousands of rounds fired thru it. Still works great!

    So, yeah, 13 years old. Next gun was a shotgun at 19. First revolver at 21. Was about 25 I think for my S&W model 59.

    That about covers it.

  28. First shots around 5 YO.
    First rifle (22lr – still have it) for birthday @ 7 YO.
    First shotgun (20 ga. – still have it) for birthday @ 9 YO.
    First handgun (22lr – still have it) for birthday @ 16 YO.
    First self-purchased firearm (38/357 – long gone now) @ 18 YO.
    Steady upwards progression since – now 70 YO.
    I think I’m gonna start slowing down soon.

  29. I was 14 yrs old. My Dad bought me a JC Higgins .410 ga Shotgun. Got my first pheasant with that gun.

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