32% of Americans either own a firearm or live with someone who does. That is actually a significant decline since the 1970’s and 1980’s when about half the population told researchers they lived in a household which had a gun. We’re not used to seeing encouraging trends when it comes to gun ownership, but a new survey by a respected research organization based at the University of Chicago documents what seems a hopeful movement, small but there nonetheless. Although the number of households with guns is declining, overall the number of guns purchased has not. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check shows there’s been an increase in the number of background checks. While this suggests the number of guns purchased is going up, it also suggests a greater concentration of ownership, meaning fewer Americans own guns—22% down from the 31% who said they did in 1985. The demographics of gun ownership point to a gender gap, indicating that the percentage of men who own guns declined. They are also older, 31% being over 65. Half gun owners are Republicans, and 4 in 10 are white, as opposed to 2 in 10 being black.
All in all these numbers remind us that as long as there’s progress in declining gun ownership, it doesn’t matter how slow it is.