The landscape of firearm ownership may be shifting, and researchers are somewhat in the dark about the most recent trends, according to a study by the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers.

In the published study, researchers found that there may be a good number of people who are falsely denying that they own a gun.

And, according to lead author Allison Bond, this group doesn't only include what many people may view as the typical American firearm owner: white males. Based on respondents' answers to survey questions, researchers have surmised that other groups — women, people of color, and those living in urban communities — are not being truthful about owning a firearm.

"Some individuals are falsely denying firearm ownership, resulting in research not accurately capturing the experiences of all firearm owners in the U.S.," Bond said.

More concerningly, she said, individuals who aren't captured in the data may be missing out on important safety messaging such as how to securely store a gun.

"We really need to understand who we're talking to and not take a one-size-fits-all approach," Bond said.

Bond's team can't say with certainty that individuals in their study were lying about firearm ownership. Researchers based their theory on respondents' answers to a series of questions related to demographic factors and perceived threats.

Rutgers researchers surveyed 3,500 adults in the U.S.

Since 2019, half of all new firearm owners in the U.S. identify as female, according to recent research. A growing number of individuals from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds have purchased firearms.

Why would someone falsely deny owning a gun?

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There are a number of reasons that some firearm owners might not feel comfortable disclosing that they own one or multiple guns, researchers said.

For one, Bond said, some individuals may want to keep their ownership anonymous because gun control is such a polarizing topic.

Or, one may lie about not owning a gun because they acquired it illegally — either in another state or off the street.

"As researchers, we need to do a better job making sure that people feel they can share that information with us, no matter how they acquired the firearm," Bond said.

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