Do We Really Know How Many Americans Own Guns?

Everybody knows that the size of the private American gun arsenal is somewhere between 270 and 325 million guns. Because we have never put together any kind of national gun registration, these estimates are based on two data sets: on the one hand, we simply take the total number of guns produced each year and add it to the number of guns we believe were floating around at some point in time; or we run public surveys and ask a ‘representative national sample’ of Americans to state how many guns they actually own.

hoarder             Last year our friends at Harvard and Northeastern made a big splash with a new survey showing that the percentage of American households containing guns was continuing to go down, but the average number of guns in each household was going up. In fact, this study found that roughly 3 percent of American adults own, on average, 17 guns or more, the collections of these ‘super hoarders’ accounting for nearly half of all privately owned guns.

I wonder if a guy in South Carolina named Brent Nicholson was one of the respondents to the Harvard-Northeastern survey, because if he wasn’t, perhaps the authors of the survey might have to amend their remarks.  It turns out that Nicholson amassed perhaps as many as 10,000 guns in various sheds and barns on his property, a stash that filled four, 40-foot trailers that were filled to the brim and then hauled away by the cops to be processed and stored.

The latest survey from Gallup says that 42% of American households contain guns, a number which is somewhat higher than the estimate by our friends at Harvard-Northeastern, as well as being above the latest estimate from the gun research group at the Bloomberg Public Health School. The problem with all these estimates, however, is that they fail to account for one, major category of privately-owned guns, namely, guns whose owners aren’t really allowed under law to own guns. And if you think that the number of households that contain an illegal gun wouldn’t really change the overall numbers of how guns found in U.S. homes, think again. Because the estimates on the number of stolen guns each year ranges from 250,000 to more than half a million, and I don’t think that many of those guns wind up being hoarded by guys like Nicholson who, by the way, sat in a local jail for 14 months awaiting trial, but after pleading to receiving stolen goods he was sentenced to – time served!

Let’s see, if 350,000 guns are stolen each year (I’m cutting the high versus low estimates in half) and each one of them ends up in a different set of hands, then over the last ten years the number of households which contain at least one gun would be maybe 4 or 5 million more than what the estimates claim that number to be. Now the real question remaining unanswered is this: has the percentage of Americans who own guns gone down, or has the real percentage gone up because the last thing someone is going to tell Gallup, Pew, Bloomberg or Harvard-Northeastern is whether they happen to have an illegal gun, right?

Which brings me to the real reason for writing today’s rant, namely, that I have never felt comfortable with either the GVP or the gun-rights gangs being all so enamored about legal guns. The only reason that Wayne-o and the boys from Fairfax always talk about ‘law-abiding’ gun owners is they want you to think that we can solve the gun violence problem by simply locking up all those bad guys who commit crimes with guns. As for my GVP friends, they keep talking about keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands,’ which is just a more polite way of saying that the ‘bad guys’ shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.

Want to prevent a certain product from getting into the market when the market is based on consumer demand?  Stop making the product – there’s no other way.

 

 

 

 

 

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