It’s been very amusing, in recent months, to watch a foundering anti-gun mainstream media and their allies on the political left assert that the number of gun owners in the United States is declining, and that their cause of gun control is ascendant.
You can see an example of this sort of bluster at the hysterically anti-gun Mother Jones, in a bit a wishful thinking:
Without doubt, the gun rights lobby is a formidable force. It is backed by a truly grass-roots network of committed and well-organized supporters who are willing to make calls to legislators and turn out in even low-turnout elections to back pro-gun candidates. This “intensity gap” bedevils gun-control groups, which, however well some of their proposals poll, have trouble getting voters to agitate and to prioritize the gun issue the way that gun-rights defenders do.
But the invincibility of the gun lobby is being overstated. For one thing, gun ownership is becoming more concentrated in a smaller share of the population, one that is increasingly clustered in certain regions, thus limiting the lobby’s political reach.
These news organizations are perpetuating the myth of declining gun ownership in hopes of tricking politicians in both parties into thinking that now is the time to strike and pass new gun control laws, and that they can do so without fear of being voted out of office.
Every story attempting to make the claim that gun ownership is declining seems to trace back to the General Social Survey (GSS). The GSS is a sociological in-person survey of what people are willing to tell the surveyors who come to their homes. The Injury Prevention Journal, Pew Research, and other sources for this alleged “decline” are all based on surveys of what people will tell them.
Interesting enough, these surveys are mentioned frequently, while others polls and surveys that tell an entirely different result are ignored.
A 2011 Gallup poll shows gun ownership has surged, to 47% of the population. Please note that was well before the buying surge that occurred after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which saw gun sales—and new gun ownership—skyrocket. Other polls, concur with Gallup that percentage of people owning guns is either stable or rising.
Unfortunately, these polls and surveys are not based on actual data, either.
So what data can we use to see whether gun ownership is actually rising or declining, since there is (thankfully) no nationwide database of gun owners in the United States?
We are, unfortunately, force to rely on proxy data.
We do know that the number of concealed carriers has more than doubled since 2007.
We know that NICS background checks—a rough proxy for gun sales—are growing steadily, and that 2014 and 2015 are on pace to double the number of checks in 2006. There have been 218 MILLION background checks since the ATF began keeping records in 1998. Tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of more sales/transfers are conducted without NICS checks to concealed carry permit holders in states where the more rigorous permitting process is used.
Gun control supporters would have you believe that the gun industry—virtually the only part of the economy to show steady growth during the Obama Presidency—is being propped up by an ever-shrinking number of white, southern Republican men who are buying more and more guns, even as their wages are stagnating and real unemployment remains at near-record levels.
So if an ever-smaller number of white, southern, Republican men aren’t buying all the guns as the media insists, who is?
Put bluntly, everyone:
The number of women gun owners in America has gone up from 13 percent in 2005 to 23 percent today. Also, the number of Democratic households with firearms in their homes skyrocketed from 30 percent in 2009 to 40 percent today.
What has been happening is that the NRA, the NSSF and other gun-rights groups have been busy fighting for Second Amendment rights, advocating for participation in the shooting sports, instructing people how to shoot and store firearms safely, working with police officers and the military and doing a myriad of other things. The NRA has also been lobbying, defending the Second Amendment in courtrooms all over the country and growing its membership. As a result, they’ve attracted more Americans to the shooting sports, made the shooting sports safer and helped more people learn to shoot and to defend themselves.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reported in 2013 that 20% of gun owners became gun owners within the past five years. Keep in mind that the NSSF is the firearms industry manufacturers organization that has access to hard data that anti-gun academic surveys do not.
The NSSF has reported that the fastest growing segments of the market are younger shooters, shooters in urban areas, minorities, and women. As a result, the recent NSSF Industry Summit in Savannah, Georgia, (full disclosure: I was a speaker at the Summit) focused heavily on how to meet the needs and demands of these fast-growing minority markets.
This meshes perfect with other real-world, factual data, such as the explosive growth of sport shooting as the fastest growing high school sport, and the sales growth of companies and individual product lines dedicated to the youth and female markets.
Now, is it possible that the “ever-smaller number of white, southern, Republican men” are fueling the sales of bra-mounted holsters, pastel-colored rifles and pistols, and Muddy Girl camo? Perhaps. But it’s improbable as it is disturbing.
But a “shrinking number of shooters” wouldn’t be spurring the high demand for new public and firearms training centers and ranges across the nation, including the new million-million-dollar phenomenon known as “guntry clubs,” which are popping up in metropolitan areas around the nation. Nor would a declining number of shooters be able to support the increased number of firearms instructors, many of whom are selling out classes months in advance and who are adding courses to their calendars to meet demand.
So folks, you have a choice.
You can choose to rely on the claims of reliably anti-gun academics, who are merely conducting surveys of people who increasingly don’t trust them in hopes of convincing politicians to carry out their wishes
Yor you can trust the market itself, which shows rapid growth in almost every segment of the shooting sports and outdoor clothing industry, including the launch and expansion of niche industries and companies responding to increased market demand across a wide range.