Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gun Ownership is Declining

There is no question that Americans own more guns, and use them more often to kill each other, than citizens of any other advanced Western democracy. As of 2007, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reported that there were approximately 294 million guns in the United States, nearly one for every man, woman, and child in the country: 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, and 83 million shotguns (these figures are discussed here). Though crime rates in general have been on a steady decline since the mid-1990s, according to the CDC more than 10,000 Americans are still murdered every year with firearms; add in suicides and accidental deaths, and the number exceeds 30,000.

Nevertheless, these statistics obscure a trend that has gone largely unnoticed: fewer and fewer Americans own guns. Data from the General Social Survey show that rates of gun ownership have been decreasing steadily for three decades. In 1977, 54 percent of American adults lived in a household that contained a gun. By 2010, that figure had declined a full 22 percentage points to 32 percent.

The explanations for this drop vary; a declining interest in hunting and the steady exodus from rural areas to suburbs and cities almost certainly play a role. Whatever the combination of causes, there have been steady declines in gun ownership among all age groups. Of particular note is the decline among young adults. In the GSS studies in the 1970s, around 45 percent of respondents under 30 years of age reported that their household owned a gun; in the most recent surveys that number has fallen below 20 percent, a decline of more than half. The decline has also occurred among all birth cohorts.

Barring a wholesale return to rural living or a boom in hunting, it seems unlikely that this trend will reverse. Demographic diversity will also likely contribute to a continued decline in gun ownership. White males own guns at higher rates than members of other groups, while gun ownership among African-Americans is lower, and ownership among Latinos and Asians is lower still. Every projection by demographers shows whites declining as a proportion of the American population in the next few decades, and Latinos are now the country’s largest and fastest-growing minority group. These factors will likely produce a continued, if not accelerated, decline in gun ownership.


  1. Keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better.

    1. Gun owners own more guns each. But, there are fewer of you. Isn't that possible?

    2. Possible? Yes.

      Probable? No.

  2. "and use them more often to kill each other"

    Really? The FBI's crime stats say otherwise.

  3. This significant decline is certainly going to continue. It has the gun lobby and manufacturers very concerned, as evidenced in their increasingly common fearmongering, increasingly extreme legislation attempts, and paranoia (like LaPierre's infamous Obama-hasn't-attacked-our-rights-so-therefore-must-be-plotting-to-take-our-gunz-away conspiracy speech). The best they can do is try to get the fewer and fewer gun owners to buy more for their arsenals.

    1. 1. An arsenal is a government facility for the storage and repair of weapons. Your rhetoric is sloppy, like your thinking.

      2. Perhaps you missed the Gallup poll last year that forty-seven percent of Americans have a gun in their homes or on their properties?

      3. Perhaps you missed how many applications for a concealed carry license have been made in Wisconsin since such licenses became available?

      4. Perhaps you missed the many stories about rising gun sales--those purchases being made by first time buyers?

      But hey, keep deluding yourself.

    2. Greg, perhaps you missed the debunking of that number-of-CCW permit-applications argument.

      Isn't it possible that the first time buyers are outnumbered by the diminishment of hunters?

    3. Claiming it isn't the same as debunking it. We showed you that when you posted the claim.

    4. Jason Kilgore, don't you ever get tired of lying?

  4. Texas Colt carryMarch 7, 2012 at 3:33 AM

    I would know really where to start with scale that they have. Other than they rotated it 1/4 turn to the right too far!

    Gun shops have been on the news all over the country with record sales. I know that getting the ammo I want is getting scarce and sells out fast. Gun ranges are booked solid because of new CHL classes and that makes it dang near impossible to sight in my new rifle and scope. I came out from the far west Texas this week on business and brought my rifle with me hoping I could sight it in here in north Texas. So far Ft Worth, Dallas, Garland, Arlington, Greenville, Plano and Grand Prairie are all booked, solid.

    I have a rule about using our range land for target practice, not allowed. But it looks like I am going to have to designate a safe area to do so when I get back.

  5. Almost 11 million firearms were sold in the United States last year. Yep, sales are declining /sarc.

    Every gun shop I've been to has a picture behind the counter depicting President Obama as gun salesman of the week/month/year.

    2012 is looking like another banner year for gun sales.

    1. I don't know, man. Perhaps you gun owners and even more so you gun rights advocates are becoming an increasingly concentrated pool. You and everybody you know owns more guns than five years ago. Am I right. The number of hunters is declining sharply. Do the math.

    2. Tell it to the FBI. They're doing more record checks on gun-buyers than ever before. Not me and all my gun-nut pals responsible for those. We have carry permits that let us bypass the phone-in FBI checks.

    3. Mike, someone did do the math. I had read it somewhere else and maybe somebody can remember where as I cant. But according to one site that said that the decline in individual ownership coupled with the skyrocketing gun sales means that each gun owner should have an average of 7035 weapons each. I personally dont have that many, not even close.

      I hope a gun sales shop has some really good deals on guns and has them in stock, because I am really behind on the ownership numbers!

  6. "In the GSS studies in the 1970s, around 45 percent of respondents under 30 years of age reported that their household owned a gun"

    Key word here is "reported."

    If I got an anonymous phone call asking if I owned a gun, I would falsely say no.

    What the poll found was that the number of people REPORTING that they own a gun has declined.

    Words matter.

  7. Record sales, month after month.

    Record numbers of FBI background checks for gun purchases, even though most "hardcore" gun owners already have concealed carry permits that allow them to bypass the FBI background checks.

    Record numbers of new gun owners signing up for training classes.

    Yeah, keep deluding yourselves. Only thing declining is our willingness to put up with your bullshit.

  8. Are there any gun owners you know who own fewer weapons today than they did one year ago or five years ago?

  9. All of the ones I have known for decades still have the same amount of guns then as they do now, me included. But I do know that their kids now own their own collection like my kids, and my extended family are now first time gun owners, inlaws of inlaws and such. Also a ton of aquantinces that have never had a "need" for guns before now own their own, anywhere from one to three to each person. The reason I know this is I have been one of many in my family and friends that have shown those who wanted, how to get their concealed license so that they can carry.

    I guess I hadnt really thought of it before about how many have wanted to go thru the class to get their license. But after thinking about it, and doing some calling, I can add up to a couple of hundred that I can point to that have gotten them. Family, friends of family, friends of friends and their families and so on.

    So no, not really fewer, but not more per person either. But instead a lot more people.

    The interest in firearms and licenses is a lot larger than I thought. And really never considered it before I started reading your blog, Mike. And you have motivated me to start asking around and digging. It has turned out that most of the people I meet, do business with are armed nowdays. Even preachers and pastors, which has surprised me the most.

    But some would say, its Texas, what can I say!