National Firearms Survey, 1999 (ICPSR 4552)

Version Date: Jul 6, 2007 View help for published

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David Hemenway, Harvard Injury Control Research Center

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This survey was undertaken to obtain information on the characteristics of gun ownership, gun storage and gun carrying practices, and weapons-related incidents in the United States--specifically, use of guns and other weapons in self-defense against other people. Data were collected using national random-digit dial telephone surveys completed between March 19, 1999 and July 13, 1999. Sampling was suspended after the school shooting in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999, and resumed after a cool-down period. Part 1, Survey Data, contains the coded data obtained during the interviews, and Part 2, Open-Ended Verbatim Responses, consists of open-ended answers provided by the respondents. Four qualifying questions were asked, dealing with: (1) gun ownership, (2) gun display against the respondent, (3) gun use in self-defense against another person, and (4) the use of a weapon other than a gun in self-defense against another person. A "yes" response to a qualifying question led to a series of additional questions on the same topic as the qualifying question. Information was collected from all respondents on the perceived safety of their neighborhood, whether they would feel safer if more people owned guns, whether guns should be allowed in public places, whether gun injuries were a problem in their community, whether they would favor or oppose a program to reduce gun injuries, and whether they had ever been shot with a gun. Respondents living in households that currently contained a gun were asked how many and what type of guns were present, the main reasons for owning a gun, whether any of the guns were loaded and unlocked, and whether they had received formal firearms training. Questions about incidents in which a gun was displayed in a hostile manner against the respondent included the number of times it took place, how long ago it had occurred, whether the respondent was in the military or police force at the time, the location of the incident, whether the individual displaying the gun was known to the respondent, whether the respondent had a gun, and whether the police were contacted. Respondents who had used a gun or other weapon in self-defense in the last five years were asked about the number of times it took place, the location of the incident, whether they were in the military or police force at the time, the type of weapon used, whether they knew the other person, whether this individual also had a weapon, whether the police were contacted and arrests made, and what crime was committed. Additional questions asked respondents whether they smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, whether they had gotten married, had had a fire in their home, and had been hospitalized for a fracture in the past year, and whether they had ever had contact with extraterrestrial life. Demographic variables include sex, age, race, education level, household income, type of residential area (e.g., urban, rural, etc.), and age and number of children in the household.

Hemenway, David. National Firearms Survey, 1999. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2007-07-06.

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United States Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (R49/CCR115279)
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

1999-03-19 -- 1999-07-13
  1. (1) The data file in Part 2 was converted to Portable Document Format (PDF), and some information, such as exact place of employment and city names, was removed to ensure respondents' anonymity. No other changes were made to the file. (2) According to the principal investigator, comparisons of responses to the questions important to this study before and after the school shooting in Littleton, Colorado revealed no significant differences. (3) Per instructions from the principal investigator, a code of 2 was recoded into 5 in variable VE64, and a code 99 was recoded into 9 in variable VE101. (4) Values in variable VE65 are expressed in military time. (5) The CASEID variable was created for use with online analysis.


This survey is a random sample of United States households, selected by random-digit dialing, with sampling proportional to the total population of each of the 50 states based on 1990 Census figures. It is nationally representative at the household, not individual, level.

Persons aged 18 and over living in households with telephones in the United States.


Of the 10,774 telephone numbers that were randomly selected, calls to 2,588 yielded contact with households that were determined to be eligible (E) for the survey. Sixty-seven of these households (3 percent) declined to participate, yielding 2,521 households that completed the survey (C). Two thousand seven hundred eighty-nine numbers were ineligible (I), because they were not working or were not residential, and the eligibility of 5,397 was not known (U) because there was no answer. Using a Council of the American Survey Research Organization formula [C/(E 1 (E/E 1 I)*U)], a response rate of 49 percent was calculated. This response rate is comparable to that of other national surveys on firearm ownership and falls within the response rates for most Behavioral Risk Factor Survey firearm modules.



2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Hemenway, David. National Firearms Survey, 1999. ICPSR04552-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2007-07-06.

2007-07-06 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created online analysis version with question text.