More people in the West say they can protect themselves than say police succeed at keeping them safe

New Avvo study explores beliefs surrounding personal safety, gun ownership, and the justice system in the West

Seattle, Wash — October 27, 2015 – The latest Avvo, Inc. consumer perception study finds that more Westerners believe they could protect themselves with a gun if in danger (38%) than believe police succeed in keeping them safe (32%). But don’t assume those numbers equate to a lack of respect for police. Avvo asked Westerners to rate how much they respect police officers in comparison to a host of other professionals. Sixty-nine percent (69%) said they respect police officers. Only doctors, teachers and pilots were respected more highly in the West. (See chart below.)

“It’s not necessarily that people think poorly of the police,” said Nika Kabiri, JD, PhD, law and society analyst at Avvo. “Perpetrators of violence usually make sure the police aren’t around before they do what they do. Most people realize that even the most effective police force isn’t able to be everywhere at all times to protect them.”

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When asked whether they thought the police are effective at keeping them safe, 32% of Westerners say “yes.” Moreover, less than a quarter of Westerners (23%) say they have very little or no trust in the police, while 15% said they trust the police completely. Also, only 9% of Westerners indicate they would not go to the police if someone harmed them or their family.

Among Westerners surveyed, individuals in Washington are most likely to believe police succeed in keeping them safe, with only 8% reporting they don’t believe police keep them safe. Californians are the least likely to believe that police keep them safe, but the difference is small, with only 14% saying they don’t believe police keep them safe.

When asked whether they could effectively protect themselves with a gun if in danger, 38% of Westerners say they definitely could while 23% disagree. Among the Western states included in the survey, individuals in Arizona are most likely to believe they could effectively protect themselves with a gun at 39%. Washingtonians are least likely to agree, with 30% reporting they could effectively protect themselves with a gun.


Gun ownership is a safety decision for most, though most wouldn’t say more gun owners creates a safer society.

Self-protection and family security are concerns for people in the West. In fact, protecting oneself or one’s family are the number one and number two reasons for purchasing a firearm in those states. Forty-one percent (41%) of Western gun owners say they purchased their gun for self-protection. Protecting one’s family was the top purchase reason for 34% of Western gun owners. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Westerners report owning a firearm.

However, though gun ownership is largely driven by the need to protect oneself and family, only 17% of Westerners – and 39% of Western gun owners – agree that if more people owned guns we’d all be safer. A mere 8% of non-gun owners believe that more gun ownership means more safety. Only 13% of Washington residents say that more gun ownership would make us all safer. Fourteen percent (14%) in California and 19% in Arizona agree.

Among Westerners, residents of California are more likely to support gun control than residents of Arizona. Forty-nine percent (49%) of people in California believe owning a handgun should be legal, whereas 58% in Arizona feel the same. In Washington, 54% support the legal ownership of handguns.

“It’s an interesting dynamic that while individuals buy guns to protect themselves and their families in the West, they don’t believe that more gun owners create a safer society,” Kabiri said. “This seems to reflect a prisoner’s dilemma. Most Westerners believe that if we could all agree to give up our guns then we’d all be safer. But in the absence of this type of wide-scale cooperation, especially on the part of the ‘bad guys,’ not having a gun means not being on a level playing field. For many, it means being a sitting duck.”

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About this study

Avvo conducts periodic studies of issues and topics at the intersection of the law and society to better understand the dynamics facing individuals engaging with the legal system.

These are findings from an Avvo poll conducted in collaboration with Research Now in late August and early September 2015. A sample of 2,600 U.S. adults (18 and over) were surveyed. The precision of Research Now online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for all respondents. The data were weighted to the U.S. current population data by gender, age, and region based on Census data.

About Avvo, Inc.

Avvo is the leading online legal marketplace connecting consumers and lawyers. Avvo offers on-demand, affordable legal advice through Avvo Advisor®, which delivers a highly reviewed lawyer for 15 minutes over the phone – anytime, anywhere – available online or via a free app for iOS devices. In Avvo’s Q&A forum, consumers can get their legal questions answered for free by more than 230,000 participating lawyers or search more than 7.5 million previously asked questions and attorney provided answers. Avvo’s lawyer directory provides Avvo-rated profiles, client reviews, and peer endorsements for 97% of all lawyers in the U.S., so consumers can find the lawyer who’s right for them.  Avvo also helps lawyers grow their businesses with marketing tools and services including the Avvo JD App and Avvo Ignite, a cloud-based marketing platform designed specifically for attorneys.  Avvo, Avvo Advisor, Avvo JD App, and Avvo Ignite are trademarks or registered trademarks of Avvo, Inc.  Avvo was founded in 2006 and is based in Seattle, Wash.