Handguns account for over one-third of the 250+ million privately owned firearms in the U.S. More than one million new handguns are manufactured in the U.S. (and not exported) and imported annually. About three of every four new handguns are semi-automatics; most of the remainder are revolvers. One of every four households has one or more handguns.
Defense: The most comprehensive study of defensive gun use (Kleck-Gertz, 1993) found that handguns were used for defense nearly two million times per year, amounting to two-thirds of defensive gun uses. Kleck separately studied National Crime Victim Surveys and concluded that people who use guns to defend themselves are less likely to be attacked or injured than people who use other means, or no means, of protection. Kleck has found that guns are used to defend against crime 3-4 times more often than to commit it. Forty states have Right-to-Carry laws allowing people to carry concealed handguns for protection away from home, and such states have lower violent crime rates, on average, compared to the rest of the country.
Target Shooting: Millions of handgunners enjoy recreational shooting, and hundreds of thousands participate in thousands of local, state, regional and national handgun matches, such as NRA Bullseye and Action Shooting, International Shooting Union, International Practical Shooting Confederation, and International Defensive Pistol Association events, at 10,000 NRA-affiliated shooting clubs, and commercial and military ranges. Two-thirds of NRA’s 55,000 Certified Instructors are certified in handgun disciplines.
Hunting: Most states allow hunting with handguns. Acknowledging the growth of handgun shooting sports in a 1998 report to Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms noted, “The handgun has developed as a sporting firearm used in both target shooting and hunting.” Among contributing factors, BATF cited renewed interest in the single-action revolver, the development of new cartridges for field use, and the popularity of silhouette pistol shooting.
Handgun Bans: Gun bans have historically been aimed at minorities. The French Black Code (1751) and, after the Civil War, the southern states’ Black Codes forbade Blacks to own arms. Tennessee’s “Army and Navy” law (1879), prohibited handguns other than expensive army or navy pistols, thus denying handguns to poor Blacks, as do modern bans on relatively inexpensive handguns called “Saturday Night Specials.” New York’s Sullivan Law (1911) prevented Italian and Irish immigrants from legally obtaining handguns, by prohibiting possession of a handgun without a license issued by the police, at their discretion. Washington, D.C., banned handguns in the mid-1970s, within 15 years its murder rate tripled, and since the ban D.C. has usually had the highest murder rate of any major U.S. city. The Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), overturned the ban as a violation of the Second Amendment. Chicago banned handguns in 1982 and in a decade murders with handguns more than doubled. It is now considering whether to modify its law to comply with the Heller ruling. Chicago suburbs Morton Grove, Oak Park and Wilmette has rescinded their handgun bans pursuant to Heller.
Anti-Gun Groups: Brady Campaign chairwoman, Sarah Brady, has said, “the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes.” The group’s first chairman, Nelson Shields, said crime victims should “put up no defense - give them (the criminals) what they want.” The group’s Dennis Henigan has said that self-defense is “not a federally guaranteed constitutional right.” The group has called for “A ban on the manufacture, sale, and importation of all handguns and handgun ammunition” and “to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition...totally illegal.” It opposes the National Instant Check System, which requires a computerized records check of persons seeking to buy handguns from licensed dealers.