Earlier this morning Magoo challenged me to prove that firearms ownership has increased over the last few years. Luckily, the ATF keeps a record of how many firearms and of what type are produced each year. So here, Magoo, is your proof (note: the ATF breaks out handguns into “pistols,” probably meaning semi-autos, and “revolvers”). Combine this with the NICS statistics we posted the other day and the answer seems pretty “common sense…”

Since 2004, the firearms industry has been cranking out more firearms, and the citizens have been buying them.

I love how the two graphs have an almost identical profile. With the exception of 2009 they line up pretty well. The discrepancies in numbers and profile can probably be attributed to the used gun and import markets, both of which were not recorded by the ATF.

Statistics thanks to the ATF Statistics Publications. That’s some interesting stuff right there.

Recommended For You

36 Responses to Chart Porn: US Firearms Manufacturing by Firearm Type 1998 – 2010

    • Anyone who questions an increase in firearm ownership over the past decade is out of touch with the industry, or totally lacking in credibility.

      Did he really ask to prove that gun ownership increased?!?
      I mean….Duh. That is pretty damning to his reputation if it wasn’t already bad enough.

    • Hey, all those extra guns were purchased by the gummint with stimulus money to save or create jobs in the American firearms industry – one of Obama’s FAVORITE employers!

      The guns were later turned over to performance artists such as Britney Spears to make videos of C-store robberies. Even MORE jobs saved or created!

      So there was no actual increase in civilian ownership of firearms since 1998. Several highly respected Harvard PhD authorities are the source of this information, but they have asked to be kept anonymous to prevent the extremist, right-wing gun nut community from toilet-papering their highly subsidized campus residences.

      • Didn`t you read the bit where it said ownership started to increase from 2004. Bush was the President then – not everything is down to Obama.
        Also when were Harvard apartments subsidized by the Government or tax-payer? Harvard is autonomous and has its own money.
        At least this data shows the ATF does some good!

  1. Nick, thanks for the charts. In all due respect, those stats to me show an increase in sales of guns and NIC checks yet do not actually prove more individual gun owners. For example, I sold three guns and bought three guns this year, and my crazy gun buddy owns 30+ guns (and sold some too). Such buying obviously does not mean about 33 individual gun owners. Is there a chart out there that focuses on “new” gun buyers by years?

      • Agreed, theoretically the USG does not keep records of who applied to buy what. Going on the history and integrity of the federal government I suspect there is an extensive database of gun owners.

        • What Aharon pointed out is a good example of the common sense and logic I often rely on. But as Mike said, since it’s just an assumption and there is no data to back it up, you guys are completely free to continue pretending that the numbers of gun owners are increasing all the time.

      • When I hear the word ‘ownership’ I take it to mean or refer to the number of people or individual persons who own guns, and not a reference to the number of guns being sold and bought.

        • Sure, RuffRidr, it wasn’t clarified.

          It’s funny how you and your friends always fall back on the lack of proof or lack of clarity when you want to stick to your unfounded conclusions. And you never fail to criticize others for doing the same.

          The fact is gun sales is a piss-poor indicator of “more gun owners.” as Aharon said.

  2. A couple interesting points are revealed by the charts. First, the chart confirms the “Obama spike” in 2009. It is interesting to see that amount of gun purchases in the past 3-4 year bear an inverse relationship with the recession. Second, the dramatic increase in semi-auto pistols is most noteable. This seems to indicate that teh gun-buying public is interested in self-defense. Whether that can be be attributed to a lack of confidence in law enforcement or simply the increased desire to exercise new-found concealed carry rights is unclear from the charts – I’m inclined to beleive its a little of both.

    • “…the dramatic increase in semi-auto pistols is most noteable.”

      Yes, and 2009 got a big spike from rifle manufacturing. I’m guessing mostly AR15s.

  3. It’s interesting to me that the real growth has been pistols. In my mind that basically confirms that the growth in gun sales is being pushed by the growth in states allowing concealed weapons, or at least an increased interest in home protection.

    Oops, Joe’s comment beat me to it.

  4. I think that it’s a safe bet that of the millions of firearms manufactured in the USA every year, the majority of those remain in the USA, probably less that 30% are exported. So, if we’re manufacturing 3 – 5 million units/year, and there are 9 – 14 million NICS run annually, it would seem very reasonable that there is a very healthy indigenous consumption of firearms by American civilians, with both the new and used markets doing very brisk business.

    What is the percentage range of new owners (those never owning a firearm before) vs. current owners adding to their collections? I have no idea and I would suspect that data would be fairly hard to collect. However, if one looks to the proliferation of shall-issue states as well as the proliferation in the number of CCW holders, together with what we know of the broader cultural context (TV shows, IDPA/IPSC competitions, NRA/SAF membership numbers, new and old gun schools, and a slew of other factors), it would be hard not to conclude that the net number of firearm owners, across all demographics, is increasing.

    • What is the percentage range of new owners (those never owning a firearm before) vs. current owners adding to their collections? I have no idea and I would suspect that data would be fairly hard to collect.

      That all depends on what information is retained when the NICS database is queried. If the dates of each person’s queries are logged (and I’d assumet they are), extracting one-time or first-time submittals would be trivial. Getting the BATFE (&RBFs) to cough it up is another matter.

  5. Some other unknown factors to consider are that a number of new owners acquire a first time gun(s) from a relative’s will after they die and others are simply given guns by again an older person. No paperwork is exchanged or registration done whether it is legally required in their state or not. Yet, other people sell their guns back during police buy back programs. As commented on earlier today (different post) the simpler 1960s & 1970s method of saying X% of households have guns cannot be used as simply today since the definitions of households and the demographic make-up of them have changed so much over the decades. Back then, one family unit in a household may have owned a gun. Nowadays, two adults — not in a relationship –might be living together without kids and somewhere between 0-2 might be gun owners.

  6. Two things that are apparent about that chart:

    2009 had a big jump in rifle purchases. Anyone want to be those were all single shot .22’s and not evil black rifles? Me neither.

    The number of pistols sold has more than doubled in the last five years, with no correspondent doubling of crime. It’s almost as if criminals break the law and don’t get their guns legally or something…

  7. Does ATF track the transfer of used firearms? My guess is that gun owners have a shorter lifespan than most firearms, barring a rampant increase in gun buy-back programs.

  8. “I love how the two graphs have an almost identical profile. With the exception of 2009 they line up pretty well.”

    Actually, given how the graphs line up, it seems to me that it’s also possible that the spike in 2009 manufacturing is a response to 2008 demand — likely a combination of orders from stores to maintain their stock, and orders for custom guns purchased in 2008 and fulfilled in 2009.

  9. @RuffRidr: it should be obvious from the context of the original post that by “gun ownership,” Leghorn meant an increase in the number of individual gun owners, and naturally, that’s what I meant, too.

    @Nick Leghorn: Stop showing me gun sales and gun production. I don’t care. Apples and oranges. Show me gun owners. One gun sale does not equal one new gun owner. One gun produced does not equal one new gun owner. It could be one in 10, 20, 50, or 100.

    What you have indicated so far is that as individual gun ownership declines, guns owned per gun owner for the trailing population increases. Naturally. This is exactly what you will expect to see as a user group shrinks to its core constituents.

    @I_Like_Pie: You will forgive my cynicism, but I was born into the gun business, and I have been hearing my entire adult life how every year, gun sales and gun ownership increase — and this is for going on 40 years now. You can see the problem: If there had actually been a positive, solid increase in gun ownership each year for the past 40 years, we’d have used up the available U.S. population by now. Obviously, that never happened. So excuse me for not getting terribly excited about the latest purported gun craze. I’ve heard this all before. Many times. This story you guys are telling? I’ve been hearing it since before many of you were born.

    • “I was born into the gun business, and I have been hearing my entire adult life how every year, gun sales and gun ownership increase… This story you guys are telling? I’ve been hearing it since before many of you were born.”

      I finally realized where I knew you from. You are the grumpy old jerk behind the counter at the gun store. Always condescending to the new gun buyer, always right, and always willing to tell people so. Well met, I haven’t been back to your store.

      • If you say so.

        Now review the above chart for annual gun production that people are so excited about. Three of the past ten years are down years. That’s not exactly a growth industry. Closer to flat/decline.

        • The trend is what’s important. I said “firearm ownership is increasing,” not “firearms ownership is at its highest point ever.” The trend over the last few years proves that statement correct.

    • There’s a rather important law called the Firearm Owners Protection Act that forbids the federal government from keeping count of firearm owners.

      Because of that prohibition, us analysts have to use the sales and manufacturing numbers (along with some of that famous “common sense” you keep bragging about having) to determine the trends in ownership.

      I’ve never said firearms ownership is at its highest levels ever, I’ve merely stated that it is increasing. And according to every available metric I’m right.

      • Okay then, how many of these gun sales or guns produced represent new gun owners? You have baked a 1:1 relationship into your assertions when you also know that cannot possibly be true. (This is one of the interesting things about humans: the ability to believe, with all their hearts, things they know are not true.)

        So what is the true ratio of gun sales to new owners in the industry numbers? One in 10? 20? 100? And what’s the break-even point to maintain current gun ownership levels vs. attrition?

        • I’m not saying there’s a 1:1 relationship.

          Let’s assume for a second that the NICS checks for 1999 – 2005 represent stagnant or even declining gun ownership. It’s probably not the case, but let’s assume that anyway.

          Working off that assumption, there are only two viable theories that explain the more recent increases in NICS checks and firearms production.

          Either:
          – Current firearm owners have more spare money to spend on firearms OR
          – New firearm owners are creating the demand

          Given the recent economic troubles, I would say that it’s more likely that the “per person” firearms sales have gone down while the number of people buying guns have gone up. This would also explain the record attendance at things like SHOT Show and the NRA convention, as well as the longer lines at my local range.

          Q.E.D.

        • Ok, if your ratio is not 1:1, what is your estimate of
          first-time gun owners among gun sales? 1 in 10? 1 in 50? 1 in 250?

          And how many new gun owners per year are required to a) keep up with population growth and b) replace gun owners who died, became too aged to participate, or simply walked away? What’s the break-even rate?

          You know, this isn’t an entirely abstract discussion. The private equity deal that created Freedom Group was based on a set of presumptions.

        • There’s not enough information to even start calculating an accurate figure. All I can say about the given data is that it indicates an increase in firearms ownership, which was where this argument started.

          How about you prove to me that firearm ownership is shrinking (using something other than a survey) and we can continue this discussion.

    • Magoo, I don’t care about statistics, I can only go by personal experiences. My two adult children have purchased their first firearms, and three friends have taken up firearm ownership for the first time. Plus in the last three years, at the shooting range where we shoot, I am constantly seeing and talking to new gun owners (first timers), so that would have me conclude that, yes indeed there are many new gun owners!

  10. Nick Leghorn says: “There’s not enough information to even start calculating an accurate figure. All I can say about the given data is that it indicates an increase in firearms ownership, which was where this argument started.”

    Nick, if you have no way to determine or reliably estimate how many of the total sales or production are first-time buyers, then no — you have no way to claim an increase in gun ownership. You don’t even know if these numbers are sufficient to maintain existing ownership levels. I don’t see any argument here. You never presented a real argument. Trade show attendance? Seriously?

    • For ratios, yes, the data is insufficient.

      But as I just finished proving, the data is perfectly sufficient to prove an increase in firearms ownership.

      Once you rule out the impossible whatever is left is as close to the truth as we mere mortals can prove.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *