Brian Malte, senior policy director of the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said gun-rights groups “demonized” Obama during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, leading many gun owners to buy more firearms.
“We see the percentage of households owning guns declining,” he said, “and that indicates that those who already own guns are buying more of them.”It is certainly possible that all those guns are concentrating in a smaller and smaller number of homes -- but everywhere I go, I run into people who have never owned a gun before, but are now buying one. Which is more likely? That people who already have more than a dozen guns are buying nearly all the newly made ones, or that the market is dramatically expanding? I am one of those people who has more than a dozen guns (but I don't know immediately remember how many), and I have not bought a gun in almost twenty years. Maybe I am just weird.
UPDATE: As one of the commenters points out, the General Social Survey is the one that keeps showing this dramatic decline in gun ownership. The Gallup Poll in 2011 showed 47% of American households admit to a gun, the highest number since 1993 (when it was 54%). This report indicates that 39% of American households had a gun in 2013, reversing a four decades long decline. This report from the Pew Research Group points out that there is a very large gap between the Gallup numbers and the GSS numbers, with GSS showing a pretty consistent decline, while Gallup's data going back to 1972 shows no consistent decline:
A Gallup survey in May 1972 found 43% reporting having a gun in their home. The percentage subsequently fluctuated a great deal, reaching a high of 51% in 1993 and a low of 34% in 1999 – but the percentage saying they had a gun in their home last year was the same as it was 40 years earlier (43%).To be blunt, when large national surveys differ by 9 points on a question this simple, this is statistically significant, and suggests that either the way the question is being asked, or the assumptions being used to weight the raw data, are problematic.
This July 25, 2012 Guardian article points out that telephone surveys consistently show higher gun ownership rates than the GSS, and do not show the decline the GSS data shows. The article suggests several possible reasons -- none of which are obviously right or wrong, and thus it is difficult to tell the actual rate.
UPDATE 2: Several readers made the point about the problems of phone surveys on this, but none made it with more with than this:
"Hi, I am calling you to ask if you have expensive jewelry or gold stored in your home."