GSS Survey: Gun Ownership at Record Low!

GSS Survey Results (Photo: AP)

GSS Survey Results (Photo: AP)

Say What?! Yeah, that’s right, you read the title correctly.

According to a poll conducted by the General Social Survey, the percentage of Americans who live in a household with a firearm is at a record low 32 percent, which ties the previous record set in 2010.

Given that we’re still living in the midst of an Obama gun boom, where gun sales have skyrocketed to unprecedented levels, one must ask how can this possibly be?

More on the GSS survey from The Associated Press:

The drop in the number of Americans who own a gun or live in a household with one is probably linked to a decline in the popularity of hunting, from 32 percent who said they lived in a household with at least one hunter in 1977 to less than half that number saying so now.

That the number of households with at least one gun is declining doesn’t necessarily mean that the number being purchased is on the decline. Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check system shows that in recent years there’s actually been an increase in the number of background checks being run, suggesting the total number of firearms being purchased is going up.

But those are concentrated in fewer hands than they were in the 1980s, the General Social Survey finds. The 2014 poll finds that 22 percent of Americans own a firearm, down from a high of 31 percent who said so in 1985.

So, the GSS tells us that the documented surge in sales is driven by existing gun owners buying more guns and not by prospective gun owners taking the plunge and purchasing their first firearm. Could this be true? Possibly.

But if it were, how would the GSS make sense of the fact that the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, reported a “79 percent… increase in female customers” between 2011 and 2012?

Assuming the NSSF is correct, that burgeoning female demographic would account for a sizable portion of those sales. Seems to me something is not adding up. But the GSS figures are even more perplexing when one considers what Gallup has reported on gun ownership.

Gallup Poll on gun ownership in the home.  (Photo: Gallup)

Gallup Poll on gun ownership in the home. (Photo: Gallup)

The 2014 Gallup report states:

Forty-two percent of Americans report having a gun in their home, similar to the average reported to Gallup over the past decade. This self-reported measure has fluctuated from survey to survey, but is consistent with trends since 2004. Longer term, Gallup has found that household gun ownership has ranged from a low of 34% in 1999 to a high of 51% in 1993.

Additionally, Gallup found that individual gun ownership is closer to 30 percent, eight points higher than what GSS reported.

“Most survey respondents report that the gun in their household belongs to them personally (30%), as opposed to another household member (14%),” states Gallup. “This means that about one in three people who have a gun in their home are not personally owners, but are aware the gun is there. The personal ownership trend has been generally stable over the past 13 years.”

Needless to say, there is a rather large discrepancy between Gallup and GSS. However, both polls claim to be accurate. GSS touts a margin of sampling error that is plus or minus “2.2 percentage points” at “the 95 percent confidence level” while Gallup touts a margin of sampling error is plus or minus “4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.”

Something is up. According to, the organizers of the GSS are sympathetic to the gun-control movement. If that’s the case, well then, we have an answer. If not, then we are left to speculate as to why the results of the two polls are so off.

Generally speaking, though, even the Gallup numbers seem low to me.  I’d venture to guess that most gun owners surveyed are not chomping at the bit to tell a random pollster about their gun collection.  Can’t say I blame them.  I wouldn’t either.  Would you?

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Beboboy October 27, 2017, 6:06 pm

    I would be more inclined to answer a pollsters questions about my wife’s and my favorite sex positions. Gun? No

  • Ak July 27, 2015, 10:26 am

    I’ve seen estimates of ~2% of the population being same-sex attracted. No one I have seen is surveying and using the implicit results to advocate reversing the “gains” in homosexual rights that have happened especially over the past decade, or of restricting activities unique to homosexuality, because of the small population involved.

    As well, if only 20% of the population votes, is that a reason to restrict voting rights?

  • stevecanyon March 22, 2015, 1:23 am

    Have lived around Mexicans much of my life. Can guarantee there is at least ONE gun in every household !

  • Russ March 19, 2015, 12:43 am

    I wish I could get back the 5 minutes of my life I wasted on reading this useless information.

  • mauser686 March 17, 2015, 3:46 pm

    The other factor to consider is that many people no longer have home phones, only cellular. I have mine on he “Do No Call List” and simply don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize, they can leave a voice mail if they want a call back. So many phone scams exist now, that I would think the samples would be skewed and respondents would comprise a group not reflective of the “average” American.

  • Luis G. March 16, 2015, 11:46 pm

    Total BULL, all my neighbors that did not own a gun have gotten one, and at my favorite gun shop, they can not keep 380s and 9mm in stock, the owner tells me thar there is a great amount of WOMEN purchasing firearms and asking where they can get instructions on how to shoot.So I think Bloomberg paid for that research trying to get into peoples minds. Sorry I do not buy it.

  • Al P. March 16, 2015, 7:00 pm

    NO answers given out to ANY F******G surverys by phone or Internet, PERIOD!
    If you want to know something, come and meet me in person, on MY terms.
    If I can tolerate you and trust you (very few get this far), we will discuss the cost to you for getting my opinion on something.
    If I don’t like you, that is what reverse gear and haulin’ ass is for.


  • Zeke March 16, 2015, 5:25 pm

    Yea, the only thing down is the people answering the survey correctly. For the last 6 years we have had record breaking gun production and sales, so maybe the guns are not in the home… there in the car or the back pocket.

  • NealS March 16, 2015, 12:26 pm


    Question: Do you have a gun in your home?
    Answer: It’s none of your business (*).

    * The only answer that should be given.

  • Rocky March 16, 2015, 12:06 pm

    I really don’t know where all of these surveys come from. In my 62 years on this planet, I have yet to be asked to tell anyone my views on much of anything, ranging from what TV shows I like, to the ‘man made’ Climate Change idiocy, to Firearms ownership and everything in between.
    Polls can be made to show whatever outcome the poll’s author desires. Nobody but ignorant politicians (is that a redundancy?)and their ilk pay any attention to them, anyways.

  • Kim March 16, 2015, 12:04 pm

    Hmmmm…..want to know something personal and private about me and mine??????
    show me your security clearance and demonstrate a need-to-know…….and I’ll be happy to share when you present a court order to my attorney.

  • rick March 16, 2015, 11:36 am

    Thats why the sales of arms and ammo is through the roof. Thats why you cant get 22lr for under $40 a brick. Now please pass the koolaid.

  • Dave Hicks March 16, 2015, 11:13 am

    Survey !

  • Rsin40 March 16, 2015, 10:46 am

    Their holding back due to all the idle threats from our “Leadership”. It’s inaccurate.

  • Ralph March 16, 2015, 10:07 am

    I will never give a diefinativery answer on this question. If you say no and it is not a legitimate survey, you are just asking the idiot to come by and rob you. Keep them guessing and they won’t try it.

  • Kbota March 16, 2015, 9:40 am

    Caller : “Do you have guns in your home?” Me: ” nope, guns scare me.” Next question? Prior to 6 years ago, I might have answered differently.
    Now, if the called has a heavy ghetto accent, My answer might be, “dang right, and I keep a loaded 45 right by my recliner, and another beside the bed.” Next question?

    • dkeuel March 16, 2015, 10:26 pm

      Polls, doctors, professors, social workers, neighbors, cops, reporters, census workers, the IRS…the answer is always “no”, period, they can find out it’s really “yes” when the WTSHTF.

  • Cop (ret.) March 16, 2015, 9:02 am

    I’ve been asked that poll question a few times in the past few years. Answer depends on who is asking. NSSF asked me… yes I do. Chicago or DC based organization/company… oh, nope!

  • Ram6 March 16, 2015, 8:58 am

    There is on clear answer to this poll. It was designed to influence public opinion on gun ownership, not to really report on ownership in the U.S. The idea is “look no one rally owns a gun anymore, so when we pass all these restirictions it doesn’t hurt you, just that pesky minority of deranged folks who have firearms”.

    The other fact is that most gun owners are not inclined to answer any question about firearm ownership. If someone called me and asked if we had firearms in the house my answer would be NO. It’s no one’s business what I own or don’t own. In this day and age of the government requiring intrusive questions about firearm ownership by physicians including asking children by pediatricians what right minded individual is going to volunteer that information. It’s merely designed to ease the ability of the government to confiscate your firearm should they so desire. Much as they did after Katrina in New Orleans when that was the only protection law abiding citizens had against looters.

    This survey and any like it aren’t worth the paper they are printed on!

    • Bob October 2, 2017, 8:53 am

      Thanks for saving me the time to write the exact same thing….

  • Mike Lowry March 16, 2015, 8:40 am

    Each time I get a gun survey, or any other survey I almost always hang up. My family doesn’t do phone Solicitations, period.
    As for gun ownership, based on range time, and shooting at various clubs, firearms ownership is way up among all demographics in my neck of the woods, women, males, new to guns, and kids, for sure is up. If I were to hazard an educated guess I’d say in Central Missouri ownership is around 75% to 80%. Now if you were to count only St. Louis, and Kansas City that number likely falls to 40% to 45%.
    Like all things, the Urban mentality is Anti in most cases, but than look at the demographics, Black, unemployed, Welfare, criminal mentality is much higher. Look at the CCW in these Urban hell holes, mostly White, Asian, defensive weapons, some hunters, call it 20%, hunters much more likely to possess more than 1 firearm, and likely to have CCW.

  • BigC March 16, 2015, 8:28 am

    Here’s my solution to this query.
    Caller: Do you have any firearms in your home?
    Me: None of your F’n business……CLICK!

  • Mark March 16, 2015, 8:21 am

    Hmmm…somebody asks me if I own a gun or guns. I think my answer would depend on who is doing the asking. If it’s a pollster on the phone I’m gonna say “I do not own any guns” ’cause I don’t want anymore people to know my personal business than already do know, i.e., gov’t agencies. If it’s a guy I don’t know I’m gonna say “none of your business” or “I don’t discuss politics”. If it’s a guy I know…a human being who is, by nature, inclined to share such info with others albeit innocently…I’m gonna say “several, all loaded in the event of a home invasion”.

  • Ralph March 16, 2015, 7:10 am

    If someone called my house and asked if I had a gun I might be tempted to answer “why don’t you come by and see?”

  • Al March 11, 2015, 11:41 am

    Polls do not tell the whole story. The alternate conclusion is that people do not trust the callers or the government. Network viewership is also at an all-time low for the same reason.

  • Will Drider March 10, 2015, 11:45 pm

    Why firearms surveys of ownership are always lower then actual figures.
    1. Phone rings. Caller or autobot asks do you have a firearm in your home? Your answer? You could hang up, answer yes or probably respond no regardless of truth. Whether you own firears or not is your private business. With the intrusive Gov collecting all the data they can get legally and illegally, it may well be better to not to feed the beast that will bite you.
    2. I have known about a dozen firearms enthusiasts who only buy firearms from private sales and will not buy from anyone requiring a bill of sale. They are not felons, they just do not trust the Fed and State Gov’s. Gov’s that have had an anti-gun agenda for decades. No paper trail. Not even a comment on a blog about what their favorite firearm is. 100% GOG (Guns off Grid). They won’t even shoot with me at a “sign in” range.
    3. As the referenced survey was based in Chicago, where were the samples drawn from. We know how restrictive Chicago, New York and Wash DC are. Did they poll States that have been CWP Shall Issue for decades? How many were polled in TX, AZ, FL, ID, MT and AK to name a few fine States.
    4. Same as if your Doctor asks if you own a firearm? None of there damn business!
    5. Figures lie and liers figure. Pollsters are paid to find support for a desired conclusion. In this case it is to tell politicians that the number of voting households with firearms has declined to a point where more voters who don’t support gun ownership exist and therefor they should vote anti-gun.

  • Mark N. March 10, 2015, 11:23 pm

    I think it is more like 32% reported they lived in a house with a gun, which may be a number substantially below the actual number. But that still leaves 100 million Americans who live in homes with guns. And the number is indeed plausible in the sense that there are many gun owners who have more than one–sometimes many n=more than one–gun in their home; these statistics suggest that the average gun owner owns three firearms.

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