Previous Post
Next Post

You gotta hand it to Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center (VPC): the guy’s a proper propagandist, with a genuine mastery of timing and spin. On the eve of the 2011 National Rifle Association convention in Pittsburgh (TTAG will be there in force), Josh drops this bombshell: “Household gun ownership in the United States has dropped to its lowest level since it peaked in 1977 according to a report issued today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) analyzing new data from the General Social Survey (GSS) conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.” Alphabet soup, but is it the real thing? Survey respondents are notoriously, uh, gun shy about revealing firearms ownership. Anyway, click here for A Shrinking Minority: The Continuing Decline of Gun Ownership in America. For those of you who can’t be bothered, the VPC’s bullet points are after the jump . . .


According to decades of GSS data analyzed in the VPC report–

Household gun ownership peaked in 1977, when more than half (54 percent) of American households reported having any guns. By 2010, this number had dropped more than 20 percentage points to 32.3 percent of American households reporting having any guns in the home–the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS. In 2010, fewer than a third of American households reported having a gun in the home.

Personal gun ownership peaked in 1985, when 30.7 percent of Americans reported personally owning a gun. By 2010, this number had dropped nearly 10 percentage points to 20.8 percent–the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS. In 2010, slightly more than one out of five Americans reported personally owning a gun.

Male gun ownership peaked in 1990, when 52.4 percent of males reported personally owning a gun. By 2010, this number had dropped more than 19 percentage points to 33.2 percent–the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS. In 2010, only one out of three American males reported personally owning a gun.

Female gun ownership has fluctuated within a narrow range with no recent signs of increase. Relatively rare, female gun ownership peaked in 1982 at 14.3 percent. In 2010 the female personal gun ownership rate was 9.9 percent. Only one out of 10 American females reported personally owning a gun in 2010.


VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, “This new data is the latest confirmation of the ongoing, long-term trend of decreasing gun ownership in America. Despite the short-lived uptick in gun sales that occurred after the election of President Obama, the fact is that gun-free households are an increasing majority while gun-owning households are a shrinking minority.”


Key factors cited by the report contributing to the continuing decline in household and personal gun ownership include: the aging of the current-gun owning population and a lack of interest in guns by youth; the end of military conscription; the decreasing popularity of hunting; land-use issues that limit hunting and other shooting activities; environmental and zoning issues that force shooting ranges to close and limit new range construction; and, the increase in single-parent homes headed by women.


Previous Post
Next Post


  1. I wonder if there has been any attempt to control for people simply not reporting gun ownership in the surveys? I would never admit to an unknown person that I own guns.

    This is a known issue in the homeschool community. Surveys have never been very accurate at measuring homeschooling, because of the negative attitutes that often surround homeschooling. When there’s a negative attitude publicly, surveys generally underreport.

    The lower number of households doesn’t seem consistent with the higher numbers of background checks and gun sales, especially since most states now let CCDW holders (the people most likely to own multiple guns) bypass the phone system.

  2. I’d agree in questioning the survey, Its my practice and belief that Gun owners in certain areas, do not openly admit possession of firearms to surveys and polls. Some areas are just not very open to law abiding firearms ownership. I see that issue where I am.

  3. I immediately question anything coming from Josh Sugarmann and the VPC. The guy has admitted to dishonest and deceitful practices in the past.

      • Here’s your quote for the day: “Statistics are often used like a drunken man uses a lamp-post — for support rather than illumination.”

        • RuffRidr, I know you extend your mistrust of statistics to Helmke and co., but what about the ones that support your side? You’re OK with those?

          Isn’t it true that we should be suspicious of all statistics especially if they’re being presented by someone with a stake in the argument?

      • But then again Mike, you have never disproven all those databases and government reports, government rulings, JAMA reports and even Josh’s own VPC 2009 report showing how safe gun owners are and how ineffective gun control has and always will be.

        So when you do have those oh so elusive facts proving the 80 mil law abiding gun owners are the problem, please warn us as we will need to dress warm for hell freezing over.

  4. I rarely talk to pollsters at all, and I’d certainly never tell some anonymous voice on a cold-call that I own guns.

    If they need to know let them find out the hard way.

  5. Can’t believe that everyone is missing the obvious — a single data point doesn’t tell the full story.

    Let’s say that the survey numbers are accurate — I doubt it but let’s make that assumption.

    1977 — 54% of households
    2010 — 32.3% of households

    Okay, so the obvious question is — what is the change in the number of households in 34 years.
    In 1977, there were 74,142,000 households.
    In 2010, there were 117,538,000 households.

    A 58.5% increase in households.

    Raw numbers –
    In 1977, there were an estimated 40,036,680 households reporting firearm ownership.
    In 2010, there were an estimated 37,964,774 households reporting firearm ownership.

    In 2008, there were reportedly 116,783 households…less than 1% fewer than in 2010. Does anyone really think that 11% of all households sold or gave way all their firearms in 2 years?
    (Ownership reported to be 36% in 2008, down to 32.3% in 2010)

  6. The data is questionable to say the least, as others have alluded to, people have become much more wary about giving out personal info on the phone to strangers.

    This reminds me of one of the leading government funded studies on drug use in America – they hire pollsters who go door to door offering cash to people to talk about their drug use for an hour or so. I’m guessing dang few pot smokers agree to participate, which would explain our official six percent usage rate, and it seems likely to me that most crack heads and other addicts who agree to participate for the cash aren’t giving accurate answers.

  7. “There are lies, damned lies and statistics”
    …. Mark Twain

    “There are lies, damned lies and anti-gun ‘policy centers'”
    …. Me

  8. I’ll have to read the full report before I can draw any conclusions, But it’s interesting that VPC would release a report entitled ” A Shrinking Minority: The Continuing Decline of Gun Ownership in America”.

    As some others here have pointed out, if we assume this is indeed true then doesn’t it stand to reason that it badly undercuts the raison d’etre for the VPC’s existence?

    As I say, I haven’t read it, but I’ll be interested to see what’s implied by the report. Perhaps the VPC is suggesting that, since gun owners are a small and shrinking minority, there’s no longer any need to be concerned with upholding the provisions of the Second Amendment. If’ we’re a small and dwindling group of gun-owners, why bother to protect our rights or pay any attention to our claims if there’s so very few of us, or if we’re all going to “disappear” soon? Why, in that case, must the “majority” of bien pensant citizens in this country continue to be held in thrall by the fevered demands of a ‘buncha right-wing redneck gun-nuts?

    Why, indeed? It’s an interesting line of argument, and I would be very surprised to hear it stated – openly, anyways – by an organization presumably comprised of coolly objective, educated, sophisticated, rational, and oh-so-open-minded people like the VPC.

    Minority rights? Who needs ’em.

    Me, for a start.

  9. “If’ we’re a small and dwindling group of gun-owners, why bother to protect our rights or pay any attention to our claims if there’s so very few of us, or if we’re all going to “disappear” soon? Why, in that case, must the “majority” of bien pensant citizens in this country continue to be held in thrall by the fevered demands of a ‘buncha right-wing redneck gun-nuts?”

    Replace “gun owners/nuts” with “athiests” and see how quickly the left rediscovers its reverence for minority rights.

    • Or gays, or lesbians, or African-Americans, or Hispanics, or illegal immigrants, or Muslims, or Zoroastrians, or …

      Precisely my point, and yet another example of run-of-the mill lefty double standards and hypocrisy.

      (And hey – why aren’t “gay” and “lesbian” proper nouns? My spell check let me slip by with lowercase type. I thought protected classes were supposed to be proper nouns; except right-wing gun nuts, of course.)

  10. If these statistics aren’t misleading, which I believe they are, the sweeping changes in gun laws are going to change them rapidly. After all, excessive gun control efforts only limit the participation of law-abiding citizens, not of criminals. As overly restrictive laws are changed to where ownership of a gun for the purpose of self-defense is more practical, ownership by law-abiding citizens will increase.

    Anecdote-in-point: Gun laws in Georgia have changed quite substantially (and regularly) over the last ~6 years. As a result, beginner level “gun safety” courses are flooded with participants, to the point that ranges are cutting back on intermediate courses so that their instructors have more time to teach the beginner courses. Even our local PD has just started offering free twice-monthly gun safety courses, including range time, and they are booked solid three months out.

    (Mind you, the PD course requires that you bring a handgun & ammo, unlike the range courses which often include rentals in the fee, but I think that highlights the amount of serious interest.)

    • Similarly, since Iowa passed shall issue that took effect 1-1-11, The instructor demand are so great that it’s a 3 to 4 month wait to get into a class to get a permit to carry. And why the big demand all of a sudden? Part of it is that under the old law, some sheriffs refused to issue permits at all. Of course some, like mine for example, issued to anyone that passed the background check. Then there were others that would issue a permit that was so heavily restricted as to be virtually useless.
      Then of course you have to factor in the press. They made such a big deal out of it that a lot of people were awakened to the fact that they could get a permit. All of their weeks of bitching about the standard blood in the streets crap informed people that such permits were now available. Gun ownership in Iowa is not declining as Sugarman would like to believe.

  11. Male gun ownership down almost 20 points since 1990?! The estrogen in the water supply must be working. What man doesn’t own a gun?

    Joking aside, Bob S. is spot on.

  12. 2 more reasons occurred to me why this is likely to be bogus. Study is done by the U. of Chicago, and judging from firearms and prepper forums, a tremendously large number of people lost their entire gun collection in an unfortunate boating accident.

Comments are closed.