(WASHINGTON) -- There's been a monumental sea change in the reasons why Americans buy guns since the turn of the century, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, reflecting a new concern about personal safety.
In August 1999, 49 percent of gun owners said the primary reason they owned firearms was for hunting purposes, while 26 percent said they purchased guns for protection.
Flash forward to the latest Pew poll: 48 percent of gun owners say they purchased firearms for protection, while just 32 percent buy weapons for hunting.
Breaking down the numbers further, virtually two-thirds of women gun owners listed protection as their top priority, compared to 43 percent 14 years ago, while 42 percent of men said protection was their main concern, up 21 points from 1999.
The Pew Research Center survey also found that nearly six in ten of those who did not own guns in their homes would be uncomfortable with the presence of a firearm in their household.
As Congress debates whether to toughen restrictions on firearms to curb gun violence in the nation, 58 percent of the Pew respondents worry that tighter gun legislation would make it more difficult for people to protect their families and homes. Meanwhile, 54 percent believe new gun laws would reduce the amount of deaths due to mass shootings.
The Pew poll was conducted from Feb. 13-18 and questioned 1,504 adults.
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