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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why The True Rate of Gun Ownership Doesn't Show Up in Polls

Firearm sales are likely to set a record in 2015.  The gun ban lobby would have us believe that a smaller percentage of Americans are responsible for this sales increase, basically adding to their arsenals rather than a growing number of Americans becoming gun owners.  They cite various polls to back up this assertion, including the General Social Survey (GSS) which is conducted annually by the University of Chicago.  The GSS claims that gun ownership is declining and pins the percentage of Americans who say they own at least one gun is about 32%.  Other polls put the number upwards of around 40-45%.

Polling on the question of whether someone owns a gun is rather tricky however as Dean Weingarten wrote recently on which was later picked up by Weingarten uses a Zogby Analytic poll from February of this year to show that a large percentage of the public believes it is not the business of pollsters whether or not a gun is in the home:
QUESTION: “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?”Gallup recently released a poll showing that gun ownership had declined from polls they had taken in an earlier time period. That number is inconsistent with the number of firearms that have been sold since President Obama took residency, but the difference can be answered by the Zogby Analytic question above. The poll indicates maintaining anonymity is a contributing factor
  • 36% of Americans feel it is none of the pollster’s business and that includes 35% of current gun owners 47% of Republicans and 42% of Independents  
Weingarten writes that the number of privately owned guns in the country has more than tripled since 1970 and is on pace to quadruple by the end of 2016.  So, is this large number of guns in the hands of an ever shrinking number of Americans?  Weingarten thinks not based on the Zogby poll data and also using data from two states that require every gun owner to obtain a permit to own a gun:
In those states that track the number of legal gun owners, the number of gun owners have increased dramatically in the last five years.  In Massachusetts, the number of gun owners has increased 66% in the last five years;  In Illinois, the number has increased about 75%, from a little over 1 million in 2010, to 1.8 million in 2015.
Weingarten concludes while the actual number will likely remain unknown, it is between one third and one half of the population.  With that in mind, it's up to us to make sure that those gun owners understand how important it is to understand the politics of the issue and to understand just what the term "commonsense gun safety" really means to their ability to continue to own and use firearms.

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