Of the roughly 265 million firearms owned by Americans, exactly half of that arsenal is owned by just 3 percent of the adult population, according to an extensive new survey conducted at two prominent U.S. universities.

The research, performed last year by public health researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities, says the rising popularity of gun ownership in the United States is being pushed by that extremely small part of the population — a niche the report calls “super owners.”

The average “super owner,” the survey says, owns 17 firearms — even though crime statistics don’t support their main reason for owning a gun.

“The desire to own a gun for protection — there’s a disconnect between that and the decreasing rates of lethal violence in this country. It isn’t a response to actuarial reality,” researcher Matthew Miller said.

“When I look at our survey, what I see is a population that is living in fear,” lead author Dr. Deborah Azrael said. “They are buying handguns to protect themselves against bad guys, they store their guns ready-to-use because of bad guys, and they believe that their guns make them safer.”

The bottom line, according to researchers, is that tiny part of the U.S. population, just 7.7 million people, own 133 million of the 265 million firearms currently in circulation — precisely 50 percent. The survey found these “super owners” have between eight and 140 firearms.

 Read More: UPI
Featured Image – Visitors at a gun show in Houston, Texas – Wikimedia Commons