Thursday, October 18, 2007

The myth of the decreasing gun owners

Or :More fun w/ statistics.

According to the VPC:

During the period 1972 to 2006, the percentage of American households that reported
having any guns in the home has dropped nearly 20 percentage points: from a high of
54 percent in 1977 to 34.5 percent in 2006.

That's all well and good. Now let's look at the real numbers. In 1970, the number of households was 63,450 according to the Census Bureau. In 2002, the number of households was 111,278.

For those of you math impaired, that's an increase of 75% . Totaling about 34,000 homes in 1972 vs. over 38,000 homes with firearms in 2006. Now remember, that's households.

Their next claim is:

During the period 1980 to 2006, the percentage of Americans who reported personally
owning a gun dropped more than nine percentage points: from a high of 30.7 percent
in 1985 to a low during the period of 21.6 percent in 2006.

Once again, all well and good.

Population of the US in 1980 :225, 349,000
Population of the US in 2006 : 299,400,000

That's an increase of 25% in population. Or 65.25 million owners in 1980 vs. 64.5 million in 2006. That's statistically insignificant.

Notice the way they worded that though. "From a high in 1985" after claiming a period from 1980. If you look at the data, the reported numbers from '84-'85 jumped up 5%. An increase in ownership of nearly 12 million in one year? Followed by a drop of almost 6 million two years after and another 6 million the year after that? I'ld like to see the numbers proving that one.

So as much authority is given to the GSS, it's still all based on what people choose to answer on a phone survey.

Update: To show this even more clearly, another phone survey of a similar number of people has personal ownership at 28% and "in home" at 42%. That's a difference of nearly 20 million people.

The full NORC report.


Anonymous said...

I think we can all agree that a phone survey will underestimate gun ownership. However, it would be nice to know if the error has been relatively constant over the last 20-30 years, or if the error has been increasing in recent years (due to, for example, growing skepticism about politicians or the police).

If the error has been relatively constant, the GSS figures would imply a fairly static number of gun owners (not enough new shooters to offset aging hunters?). The 270+ million firearms held by US citizens may be concentrated in a much smaller community than gun owners frequently assume.

On the other hand, the error may be increasing due to a shift to more urban/suburban gun owners. The legal implications or "social stigma" of gun ownership in many of these communities might cause more repondents to deny ownership.

BTW, I like the way you dig up gun studies I don't see referenced anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

The studies' own verbage shoots them in the foot:

"reported having any guns"

"reported personally owning a gun"

Sorry, but if someone were to call my apartment and ask me if I own any firearms, or if I have any firearms in my household, my first and immediate reaction would be to either hang up, or say, "No," and hang up. I doubt I am alone in this regard.

I am not sure if it is due to the "social stigmata", as PN NJ theorizes (though I am sure that element does factor in), or if it is a growth in inherent distrust (of the person on the other end of the line, of the government of the police, etc.), or something else... But denying it (as that study attempts to) is just foolish.

Bruce said...

"Hi, I'm calling from the XYZ Survey Group. Do you keep any guns in the home?"

"Why don't you come over tonight around 2:00 in the morning to find out. I'll leave the living room window unlocked for you."

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't answer either. How do I know it's not a theft ring looking for targets? I think surveys way underestimate the prevalence of guns in our society.

Epsilon Given said...

Quick thought: if we can't trust self-reporting of gun owners (and we can't, because I'd do the same as everyone else has said), what does this say about self-reporting of those who use guns for self-defense (ie, Kleck's, etc surveys)?

I would suspect that such defense may even be higher than the estimated 1.2M to 2M times per year...

Anonymous said...

Folks, I'm Fed JBT for 30 years and I CONSTANTLY tell anyone who'll listen one word = OPSEC.
But then I tell folks to say "No" when a cop asks to search your vehicle or not to say anything you don't have to when stopped by a cop. I'm NOT trying to help law breakers get away with crimes... but I was stopped on I95 family in the car, refused a "voluntary" search - ended up with a claim of probable cause and search incident to arrest... the GA State Patrol supervisor chewed ouit the K-9 Officer that stopped me when they found my shield and creds, along with my off-duty carry and my wife's little .38. He then chewed me out for wasting "their time." My boss thought it was funny as hell and I haven't trusted MOST of the people now in my profession ever since. Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves and you can't change a sheeple-even a Ram into a Sheepdog no matter how hard you try. Sorry - been 16 years and it still makes me mad. JUST REMEMBER OPSEC!

Cemetery's Gun Blob said...

New problem.

Lack of household phones. More and more people have ditched them, in favor of mobile phones.

So that will affect every single phone survey.....