The Number of Americans and the Number of Guns

Philip Bump provides a clear visual on the number of guns owned by Americans.

“Historic data was compiled by Florida State University professor Gary Kleck in his 1991 book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America and cited by The Truth About Guns in a look at the growth of gun ownership. Kleck’s research was cited by the Congressional Research Service in its 2012 assessment of the number of guns in America (on which Ingraham based his analysis). Thanks to annual reports from the Department of Justice detailing the number of guns made, imported and exported each year, we can extrapolate outward from a number of points to estimate how many guns are in the United States currently.”

“Using Kleck’s numbers through 1987, a National Institute of Justice survey from 1994 (cited by the CRS) and CRS estimates for 1996 and 2007, we can generate a range of possible values for the number of guns in the United States, as above. In every case, the figure is now greater than the number of people in the United States.”

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  • RadicalCentrist

    Despite this huge increase in the number of guns, the fraction of gun-owning households has actually been falling. Since there are around 125 million households in the US, of which only 1/3 own guns, that works out to around 9 guns/gun-owning household.

    Let me repeat that- 9 guns/gun-owning household.

    Note also that hunting is on the wane, or at best stable, as indicated by hunting permits. Even if you hunt it’s hard to rationalize a hunter owning 2x or 3x as many guns as he did 30 years ago, since the animals being hunted in a given region are the same. So that doesn’t seem to be driving gun-owners to accumulate more guns.

    I can only conclude that it is gun fetishism that would drive a person to accumulate 9 guns (or more in many cases).

    • pisher

      That’s the average–many would have ‘only’ two or three guns, others would have dozens, scores, maybe hundreds.

      Stockpiling for the zombie apocalypse? Seriously, some of them probably are. 😉

      • RadicalCentrist

        That’s why I called it a fetish. I can see owning a long gun and a pistol. And if there are more than one hunter in the family, it seems reasonable for each to have their own rifle. But both hunting and average household size are down, so that isn’t the reason for the gun accumulation. As for home defense, I suppose you can hold one gun in each hand, so that makes 2. Beyond that, I don’t see how 9 guns protect you any better. Not much “bang for the buck” (pun intended).

        • embo66

          And you’re not even talking about all the assault weapons, etc. many of these people now own — NONE of which would be used for hunting, certainly, and would be overkill even for anything but the most organized and warlike “home invasion.”

          So it is a kind of gun fetishism run rampant — stoked by gun manufacturers and the NRA, especially since Barack “He’s coming for your guns!!!” Obama took office. In its way, their behavior is as corrupt — and criminal — as what Wall Street did to America before the Great Recession.

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