Of course, playgrounds are not exactly brimming with little Berettas and Brownings quite yet. No gun-related names have cracked the top 10 most popular list; overall, the number of children given a name like Trigger or Wesson is small. To find out the popularity of these names, Wattenberg cross-checked a list of names of firearm manufacturers and terms against the U.S. Social Security database of baby names in 2012 compared with 2002. [Sophie's Secret: The 10 Most Popular Baby Names]
She came up with 15 gun-related names, each given to at least five babies in those two years: Barrett, Beretta, Browning, Cannon, Colt, Gauge, Gunner, Kimber, Magnum, Remington, Ruger, Savage, Shooter, Trigger and Wesson. And between 2002 and 2012, the popularity of those gun-related names took off.
"I was amazed at how strong and consistent the trend was," Wattenberg said. "Every single name had soared."
Not all parents who choose these names are motivated by guns, Wattenberg cautioned. Colt, which ranked as the 328th most popular boy's name in 2012, could also call to mind a horse or the Indianapolis Colts football team, for example.
Nevertheless, the joint rise of all these names is suggestive. One possibility for the popularity is that gun names provide a "macho" option for parents looking for unique names, as many new names, such as Madison, are androgynous, Wattenberg said.
Moreover, parents increasingly name their children based on their values, Wattenberg said.
"The parts of the country that have the highest rates of gun ownership tend to also be the most open to more creative names," she said.