Immigrants living in California are less likely to own guns, more likely to fear gun violence

California Health Interview Survey analyzes residents who have a firearm at home, concerns about gun safety.

Findings from a new UCLA report reveal that immigrants living in California are much less likely than others to have a gun in their home — just 7.7% of immigrants had a firearm in 2021 versus 22.3% of all California adults. But 24.0% of immigrants report being “very worried” about being a victim of gun violence, while 12.9% of the adult population overall said they were very worried.

The data are included in a new fact sheet on firearms in the home and perceptions about gun violence, and the findings are drawn from the 2021 California Health Interview Survey, which is conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The survey also found that 17.6% of the state’s adults, about 5.2 million Californians, kept a firearm at home in 2021. Of those who kept a gun at home, 7.7% kept the weapon loaded and unlocked. Among military veterans who kept guns in their home, 13.9% reported that their firearms were loaded and unlocked.

“California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country,” said Sean Tan, a senior public administration analyst at the research center. “Yet our findings still suggest there is a need for improvements to our laws given continuing concerns over gun violence in the state.”   

Researchers segmented the findings to assess trends among Californians who are disproportionately affected by gun violence and gun safety issues, including young adults (ages 18 to 24), veterans, immigrants and LGBTQ individuals.

“Although California has the seventh-lowest gun death rate in the country, our findings indicate that particular segments of the state’s population are greatly concerned about being victims of gun violence,” said Dr. Ninez Ponce, the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s Fred W. and Pamela K. Wasserman professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management and principal investigator of the California Health Interview Survey.

Among the other findings:

  • 38.1% of veterans keep a firearm at home, compared with 17.6% of the state’s overall adult population
  • 31.9% of those who live in rural areas have a firearm at home, versus 16.2% of those in urban areas
  • 13.8% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults reported keeping a gun at home, and of that group, 9.3% said their guns were loaded and unlocked. Meanwhile, 13.2% of transgender or gender-nonconforming adults keep a gun at their home.

The fact sheet also presents data on how concerned Californians are about the threat of firearms in their lives. Overall, 12.9% of respondents said they were “very worried” about being a victim of gun violence. In addition to the contrast between immigrants and U.S.-born Californians, the survey found:

  • 14.3% of young adults, ages 18 to 24, said they were very worried, compared with 11.4% of adults 65 and older
  • 13.5% of those living in urban areas said they were very worried, versus 6.5% of those in rural areas.
Dr. Ninez Ponce
Ninez Ponce
Health Policy and Management
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