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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

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.

Definition of  disarmist

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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  1. Yeah, and firearms are [supposed to be] registered as well. Whoopee. As for Canada “destroying” their long gun registry, didn’t those destroyed lists get used recently to take guns into ” protective custody” during flooding. I forget just where. I vaguely remember Canadians being surprised when asked about their arms during evacuation. Perhaps someone else has the scoop.

  2. What I really want to is how much GOAL and Comm2A’s membership has changed. More gun owners in Mass is a good thing, for instance Charlie Baker being elected, but Mass gun rights needs to be move forward from within.

  3. Yep lots of guns in Illinois-we are FAR from the worst state. Don’t tell Joe R. …like lots of states dominated by a large city(NY,MD,Calif.) the leftards dominate by shear numbers. I know I was one of those new gun owners in the described time period…

  4. And, of course, where licensing and registration are not a deterrent to owning guns, it’s likely that ownership has increased even more in most other states.

  5. You can thank the zarnaev (sp?) brothers, Obama’s response to the terrorist attack, and the inability of the MA authorities to keep the people safe as promised.

    • I don’t know how anyone with an IQ above 100 would ever believe that the State or the Police has the ability to keep anyone safe? The element of surprise inherent in any attack, the time it takes someone to report an incident and the minimum response time all combined add up to a concept that is impossible for anyone with brains to believe.

      • “I don’t know how anyone with an IQ above 100 would ever believe that the State or the Police has the ability to keep anyone safe?”

        Oh, please…

        They most certainly can keep someone safe, just not you or I, one of the great unwashed masses, IE, the ‘little people’.

        The political elite, sure thing!


    • It is, but more ironic is the fact that MA made requirements stricter for “Class B” (revolvers/non-large capacity handguns) and the FID (rifles/shotguns), so most instructors (state requirement for licensing) tell their students to apply for a “Class A-unrestricted LTC”, which covers concealed carry and large capacity handguns/rifle mags. Each higher class of license is additionally authorized anything the lesser is, so why bother with an FID?

      So, requirements now being the same, if you’re eligible for any of them, you’re authorized for the LTC, you get the one with the least restrictions, unintended consequences are fun.

      *this of course being subject to the patchwork of jurisdiction/licensing authority, and I’m not even going to discuss Boston.

      • I had to go the FID route when i lived in the bay state because I was 19. no fun guns till 21: I moved to Florida at 20.

    • Woah woah woah Don’t give illinois legislators any more ideas my friends are just now getting their sbrs through their curios and relics licenses

  6. I have a feeling that if you looked at the numbers for NY pistol permits (which are required in order to legally possess a handgun in the state), you would probably see a similar rise over the past few years. This excludes NYC of course, where 2A rights are only for the wealthy and well connected.

  7. Count me as one of those proud 33 percenters from Illinois who respects the 2nd Amendment and will not support a candidate who does not!

  8. 1.
    A recent Zogby Analytics survey asked, “If a national pollster asked you if you owned a firearm, would you determine to tell him or her the truth or would you feel it was none of their business?” Thirty-five percent of current gun owners said it was none of pollsters’ business. People who claim that they are not gun owners are slightly more likely to answer this way.

    The study from the Pew Research Center released two years ago finds that poll response rates continue to fall dramatically, reaching levels once considered unimaginable. Only about 9 percent of Americans respond to opinion polls. When response rates fall this low, polls tell us less about public opinion.

    • well there are to many polls, the hoofballs in office can decide anything without a poll or people refuse to accept any fact unless there is a Poll or”study” to backit up.

      of course people tune out. i flat out cut them off and ask… ” is this a liberal pole to hurt our nation” so far only one did not hangup. and it was an NRA pole. lol i get calls on my Cell Phone… NOT listed 2-3 times a day now. before election cycle it was one a week.

      god i hate tech right now. they abuse it to lie to people and make them feel guilty for not flipout about everything.

      • “…i get calls on my Cell Phone… NOT listed 2-3 times a day now. before election cycle it was one a week.”

        Simple cure for that.

        If it’s a number I don’t recognize, it goes to voicemail.


        Like Hell am I burning my airtime to someone trying to sell me something…

  9. The growth in MA ownership also means a growth in gun smith revenues for neighboring states because the first thing every new gun has to do is take it a NH gun smith to get that damn mandated 10# trigger replaced.
    MA residents have only a tiny fraction of the choices we have in the freer parts of the country. But they have more choices than Cali does since Cali mandates non-existent technology for all new gun models.

    • Ah!

      So it’s required the ten-pounder be installed at time of sale but not required to stay that way?

      In that case, it’s a law that actually does create jobs.

      • MA still has a permanent AWB as well as a ten round mag limit. Under existing consumer protection laws, all handguns need to be “certified” for sale and are required to have heavy triggers. Semiautos must have external safeties manipulated independently of the trigger, a magazine disconnect, loaded chamber indicator, and pass a drop test. Retailers can’t sell new Glocks, Springfield Armory won’t sell any pistols here either.

  10. Dean, it would be nice to see some updated data on the Illinois FOID card numbers. Concealed Carry went into effect in 2014 and you need a FOID card to apply for a CCL.

  11. Hmmm, I wonder why responsible gun-owning citizens aren’t answering trivial poll questions between 10:00 and 1:00. It might have to do with being at work. It’s also curious how they aren’t getting through to people on the landline phones they don’t have.

  12. I live in Western Mass, the part without an accent, and have my LTC-A which in MA means- License to carry class A, which also means I can conceal carry. I am 46 years old, married, 2 young kids, house payed off. I am also a recovering alcoholic/addict with 11 years sobriety. Living in MA it is hard enough to get your LTC-A, never mind having a questionable history such as mine. I have no felonies, nothing on my record that would disqualify me but I do have a few misd.on the record. In Massachusetts it took me 3 months just to get all the paperwork, signed affidavits, and safety courses out of the way so I could sit in front of my local chief of police and sweat while he decided if he should grant me my license. That’s right, in MA the Chief can deny me as unsuitable if he deems it. As it turned out he was actually impressed with my length of sobriety and said as long as my background check is OKed I’m good to go. Now I just had to weight another 2 months for my license to come in the mail and PRESTO I have a MA license….. In only 5 months. I can say that the reason I went through all this to get it is because I believe in the 2nd Amendment, I believe that I should be able to defend myself and my family. And with the way the Democrats are hawking up gun control I knew it was time. God bless everyone on the front lines of this war on the 2nd!

  13. I would love to see NJ’s numbers as they have had state registration for decades including BB and pellet guns. Every pistol, & revolver has it’s own permit to buy registered, and long guns are bought using a firearms I.D card only available thru your local police dept.


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