How Many Guns Are There in America?

Night hunting pig (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

The data for the estimated number of guns in America was gathered from two sources. From 1945 to 1987, the data was taken from Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America by Gary Kleck, Table 2.1. For the later years, Kleck’s methodology was applied to figures obtained from the ATF. The number shown is the cumulative addition of domestic manufacture plus imports minus exports, not including guns shipped to the U.S. military or foreign military sales. The figures are rounded to the nearest million. And the estimated number of guns in America is . . .

Three-hundred-and-forty-seven million. That’s the 2012 figure. It represents roughly one gun for every man, woman and child in America (not counting so-called undocumented Americans). Diving a little deeper . . .

Kleck attributes the 1945 – 1968 numbers to Newton and Zimring, which includes the calculation of the 1945 number of modern guns added to the stock from 1899 to 1945. Firearms manufactured before 1899 are not included. The starting figure in 1945 is 47 million; at the end of 2012, it is 347 million, an increase of 300 million in 67 years, a six fold increase in the stock. The year 2013 is shown on the end of the chart as a place holder so that the figure 347 will be visible for 2012. Numbers for 2013 are not yet available.

The numbers do not account for reduction of the gun stock due to wear and tear, loss, destruction or illegal exportation; or increases of the stock from illegal importation, individual or illegal manufacture, or acquisition from military sources.

The U.S. population increased from 133 million in 1945 to 313 million in 2012, a 135% increase in population, or over a 200% increase in the number of guns per capita. Guns per capita rose from .35 in 1945, to 1.1 guns per capita in 2012.

For some perspective, motor vehicle ownership in the United States has followed a similar trend,  with an increase from .22 per capita in 1945 to .809 per capita in 2011, a 269% increase.

For those who wish to put data into a program to create your own charts and graphs, here are the numbers:

From Point Blank, by Kleck:

1945     47
1946     48
1947     51
1948     53
1949     55
1950     58
1951     60
1952     62
1953     64
1954     66
1955     67
1956     69
1957     71
1958     73
1959     75
1960     78
1961     80
1962     81
1963     84
1964     86
1965     89
1966     93
1967     97
1968     102
1969     107
1970     112
1971     117
1972     122
1973     128
1974     135
1975     140
1976     146
1977     151
1978     156
1979     162
1980     168
1981     173
1982     178
1983     182
1984     186
1985     191
1986     194
1987     198

1988 – 2012  ATF reports

1988     203
1989     209
1990     213
1991     217
1992     223
1993     231
1994     238
1995     243
1996     247
1997     252
1998     256
1999     261
2000     265
2001     270
2002     274
2003     279
2004     284
2005     289
2006     295
2007     301
2008     308
2009     316
2010     325
2011     334
2012     347

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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