Gun Ownership–A New Picture

A new survey jointly conducted by public health researchers at Harvard and Northeastern Universities gives a fuller and edifying picture of gun ownership in the US. There are, says the survey whose results were first published in The Guardian, 265 m guns in the US, which is more than one for every adult. Here is the intriguing statistic, 133 m of these guns are in the hands of 3% of US adults. This suggests an average of 17 guns per super gun owner. The US gun stock has increased by 70 m since 1994, so has the proportion of female owners. Although gun violence has plummeted handguns form a large proportion of the gun stock. The disconnect between the increase need to own a gun at a time when gun violence is down is something the researchers found of value. It suggests, one says, that that gun ownership is driven by an “increasing fearfulness”. This they think is relevant because it could point to future areas of involvement for those trying to decrease gun violence. Another surprising finding is that gun theft is higher than thought, 400,000 guns a year. Also a surprise is the fact that of the 30,000 suicide in the US, 20,000 are committed with guns. As a means to decrease the harm guns can do, researchers suggest that it may be possible to change people’s behavior in terms of storing guns and deciding how and when to use them. Other statistics worthy of note: Of the estimated 55 m gun owners, most average 3 guns; half own one or two; 7.7 m own between 8 and 140 guns.
While this survey points to the notion that the gun culture may not be as prevalent as we might have thought and, safe perhaps for the NRA and the lobbyists, also not as strong, it opens the door to more productive areas of activism to limit the harm guns do.