There’s an ongoing debate about whether gun ownership numbers in the United states are rising or falling. The disarmists use a couple of surveys, such as the General Social Survey, which claims that gun ownership has been falling from the 1970’s. But Tom Smith, the director of the General Social Survey is a disarmist. John Lott quotes him as saying that the drop in poll numbers would help the disarms cause . . .
Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, told me in 1997 that the large drop in gun ownership shown by his poll would “make it easier for politicians to do the right thing on guns.” According to Smith’s survey, the percentage of homes with a gun has fallen fairly continuously since the 1970s — from approximately 50 percent to 32 percent earlier this year.
Other surveys disagree with these numbers. Several show that gun ownership has remained fairly flat. On the other hand, there are many indicators that gun ownership is increasing, not decreasing. There are about three times as many guns in private hands today as there was in 1970. Industry statistics show that all those guns are not simply going into the same hands; women, minorities, and urbanites are all purchasing more guns than ever before.
Few states require licenses to own guns, but Massachusetts is one of them. A local news show looked at gun ownership in Massachusetts, and was surprised at what they found. Because a license is required, essentially all legal gun owners in Massachusetts are recorded. Bottom line: the number of Massachusetts gun owners has increased by 2/3 in the last five years. A good part of the growth has been in women gun owners. From wwlp.com:
CHARLEMONT, Mass. (WWLP) – As the debate over gun laws continues, more and more people in Massachusetts are getting their gun license. The 22News I-Team discovered the amount of licenses in the state has grown by more than 65 percent since 2010.
The reasons vary, we hear protection, the fear of new laws, sport or just fun. In our investigation, we found it’s not just men who are carrying firearms anymore.
That information runs completely contrary to the survey results. On surveys, a person who does not want people to know that they have a gun, for security, privacy, or fear of government interference, need only refuse to answer or give a false answer to an anonymous person who asks. In Massachusetts, it is required by law that you be registered as a gun owner. While your privacy and right to own guns are substantially compromised, the law provides hard data on the number of legal gun owners.
Illinois, where every legal gun owner is required to have a Firearm Owner Identification Card (FOID), experienced a 33% rise in firearm owners from 2009 to 2013, a four year period. Again, this directly contradicts the theory that gun ownership is dropping across the nation.
There is no national registration of firearms, and it seems unlikely that there will be one in the near future. New Zealand dismantled their firearm registry because it was expensive and ineffective in fighting crime. Canada destroyed their long gun registry in 2011. Without a national gun registry, surveys and other indirect methods are necessary to determine if gun ownership is increasing or decreasing. In at least two of the states that directly track the number of gun owners, the answer is clear: the number is increasing, and by substantial amounts.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.