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.
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 Breitbart.com, 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?