How many gun owners are there in the United States? It’s a question that matters these days. As Democrats are set to take control of the House in January and have vowed to try and push gun control, the number of people who own guns is an important thing to consider. While it shouldn’t matter, it does, especially to politicians who are more concerned with winning their re-election bids.
But a new study claims that people vastly overestimate the actual number of gun owners in the country.
Most people vastly overestimate the population of gun owners in the United States, and it potentially influences how groups approach gun policies, according to a study by two University of Kansas political scientists.
“Because gun owners are actually a minority, perceiving their group as larger and even as a majority could make them feel more empowered to advocate on gun issues,” said Don Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the KU Department of Political Science. “Likewise, non-gun owners that perceive a larger gun owner population now and in the future might be less likely to advocate for gun regulations.”
Mark Joslyn, professor of political science, and Haider-Markel are co-authors of the study recently published in the journal Politics & Policy. They examined results from a 2016 nationally representative survey of 1,290 American adults, who answered questions on a variety of policy, election specific, psychological and political questions, including a number on gun ownership and regulation.
Specifically, the survey asked people to give their “best guess” on what percentage of Americans owned firearms. The actual percentage of U.S. individual gun owners is roughly 25 percent, and about 33-40 percent of U.S. households have at least one gun in the home, the researchers said.
However, the researchers found that more than 75 percent of respondents overestimated the number, and only a small minority of 2.3 percent underestimated the number of gun owners.
The most common estimate was 50 percent, and nearly one-fifth of respondents estimated the gun owner population was 70 percent or higher.
Of course, this is complicated by the fact that no one knows for certain how many gun owners there are in this country–and for good reason. Tracking who has guns invariably leads to someone trying to confiscate said guns, which is the first step to tyranny.
As such, we have to use estimates. Most of those are based on surveys, but here’s the thing about gun owners: most of us don’t want to tell you we have any guns.
If you ask, you’ll often be told no just because it’s none of your business. As such, these surveys are invariably going to be lower than the actual numbers. Think about all the guys who you know own guns but will say that they don’t anymore because they were all lost in a tragic boating accident. Yes, it’s a joke, but many of us don’t want anyone to know what we have.
After all, if there’s going to be widespread gun confiscation like some people want, complete with nuclear weapons apparently, we don’t want to give anyone the idea that we own guns currently.
Of course, I know I’d get a knock on the door. There’s no avoiding that in this line of work, which I accept.
Couple that with concerns of people pretending to be calling for surveys to get an idea of who has guns, so they know which houses to break into, and it’s a wonder anyone answers honestly.
But back to the point. Because of all that, we don’t know exactly how many guns and gun owners there are in the country. We can’t get accurate surveys, and we won’t get accurate surveys.
As a result, this study is useless.
After all, how can you claim that the actual number of gun owners is being overstated when it’s impossible to know whether the guesses people are making are really wrong.
Hell, I suspect those estimates are better than the official estimates. After all, they know their social circle. They know who has guns and who doesn’t and can extrapolate that out to the population as a whole. It’s probably more accurate than phone surveys where gun owners are asked if they have guns.