Two guns for every boy: Firearm ownership down, purchases up

© George Frey
Despite heated debates over gun control in the US, gun ownership has hit new lows, according to a recent survey that found only 36 percent of Americans owned or lived with someone who owned a firearm.

For a nation with more guns than people, firearms are a large part of American culture, but the percentage of the population that would be directly affected by more gun control is worth noting, partly because the number is smaller than previously recorded. 

A poll of 1,0001 Americans, conducted by CBS News, found that only 36 percent of them owned a firearm or lived with someone who did.

While different surveys turn out different results, such as the General Social Survey from 2014 that found only 32 percent of households owned a gun, the CBS News poll does mark the lowest gun ownership level since 1978. The highest recorded rate was 53 percent in 1994, according to the Washington Post.

While an October 2015 Gallup survey did find that 43 percent of households have guns – including ones kept on property outside of the house, it does mark a general downward trend in gun ownership. For example, while the Gallup survey was significantly higher than the CBS survey, Gallup found that gun ownership had dropped by 10 percent since 1993.

What’s interesting are the numbers cited by pro-gun advocates, such as gun purchases hitting a historic high of 23.1 million in 2015. That fact has been used to defend curtailing gun control efforts by pro-gun activists who claim that it shows gun ownership is increasing. Instead, what it really means is that gun owners are stocking up on weapons.

For example, a 2013 survey from the Washington Post found that the average gun-owning household had eight firearms in it. In 1994, that number was four. A CBS News poll taken in March found that about one in five gun owners had at least 10 guns.

While many people defend the Constitution’s Second Amendment, it seems that the numbers of people that it affects are dwindling – unlike their supply of weapons. Public support for their rights, however, is on the rise, based on Associated Press polling earlier this month. When asked which deserved higher priority, gun rights or gun control, those favoring gun rights grew to 47 percent, an increase of 18 percent from 16 years ago. Fifty percent felt gun control was more important, a decrease of 7 percent from 2000 polling.