Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fuzzy Math?

Although the stats fluctuate depending on the source, many coalesce around the numbers of 80 million gun owners in the USA holding a total of 280 million firearms. With 4-5 million additional new firearms sold each year in America, by the time Obama completes his first term, we will, given the latest trends, have one firearm in the country for every man, woman and child(300 million total population).


The 80/280 million figure seems like a decent ratio, and I am counting these as legally held guns by non-prohibited persons.

280/80 = 3.5

That makes sense.

Casual gun owner #1 owns one rim-fire rifle, one center-fire rifle and one shotgun.

Casual gun owner #2 owns one rim-fire rifle, one center-fire rifle, one shotgun AND one handgun.

2 people owning a total of 7 guns works out to 3.5 guns/person average.

So what happens when you consider the collectors? The enthusiasts? The gunnuts? What happens when you consider us?

Never met any of the bloggers I follow, but I’ve managed to gather that they ALL have more firearms than the “casual gun owner.”

Let’s do some math.

Let’s say that 10% of legal gun owners have 10 firearms. Sorry to insult ya’ll but I’m intentionally trying to low-ball this to make a point.

80,000,000 X 0.1 = 8,000,000 This means that 72,000,000 have the remaining 200,000,000 guns or 2.8 guns per person. Still well within the realm of reasonableness.

The problem I have is that my personal experience with people I have met is that 75% of them have 5 or more firearms. Again a low-ball figure. If this is representative of the general population, the math gets kinda interesting.

60,000,000 X 5 = 300,000,000.

If 60,000,000 people hold 300,000,000 firearms then that dictates that the remaining 20,000,000 gun owners posses not only zero guns, but a negative 20,000,000 guns. There’s a stat that would give Helmke full wood.

No doubt that there are many gun owners who own but a single gun, but is this the norm?

Let’s assume that 90% of gun owners only own a single gun.

0.9 X 80,000,000 = 72,000,000.

Means that 8,000,000 people hold 208,000,000 guns or 26 guns per person. Over here on the west coast (minus the People’s Republic of Kalifornia) where we have constant contact with hostile Indians, that sounds about right.

Please don’t move here, they will rape your women and burn your village.


Petey said...

I often wonder if the 280 million figure takes into account custom pieces.

For instance, I own between 15 and 20 guns, but four of them are custom built flintlocks. I have two more that I am building myself. Buy the parts-barrel, lock, trigger, stock all separate. No paperwork on the individual parts.

Do these even show up on the radar in the estimates of total guns owned in America?

What about antiques? How many people have great-great-grandad's civil war musket or a hand-me-down old shotgun? How are these figured into that 280 million?

Smokey Behr said...

There's currently 7 guns in our house between 2 gun owners, so we're right at that 3.5 number. It breaks down like this: 2 rimfire, 2 pistols, 2 rifles, and 1 shotgun.

I'm planning on upping that number with another rimfire and an "EBR" in the next 6 months.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, oh dear. Someone is being deprived because of my overabundance. I have WAYY more then the estimated average.

B Woodman

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

"Guns are like Tattoos. Once you get one, you tend to get more."

Anonymous said...

I've been seeing that "80 million gun owners" and "280 million guns" number for quite some time. If we assume that the 4-5 million guns sold per year number is accurate (which is dubious at best), that number should be increasing every year, not remaining static. I have a hard time believing that the attrition rate of gun owners and guns is that high every year, so why has that number stayed the same for (from what I can recall) about the past ten years?

Those are old numbers and I would submit are way too low.

IIRC, the numbers were based on surveys. They tried to take into account those who own guns but don't admit it for whatever reason, but I'd be willing to bet that the numbers are WAY low.

Not to mention the fact that gun sales have dramatically increased since November of last year, including (according to anecdotal evidence) a large number of new gun owners.

I'd say the percentage of Americans households with guns and the raw numbers of guns in this country are extremely under-represented by those numbers.

Nancy said...


Weer'd Beard said...

"No doubt that there are many gun owners who own but a single gun, but is this the norm? "

Hell I know of quite a few people who own one-or-two guns who don't even consider themselves gun owners.

"Nah I don't have any guns....oh you mean my Gran'Paw's deer gun in the attic, and that old .32 in a shoebox count?

Hell I grew up in a staunch anti-gun home, but Dad has a rusty .22 and a rusty shotgun from his farmboy days in the basement. Dunno if they work, or could be made working, but the ATF and the Brady bunch would call Dad a "Gun Owner" While Dad wouldn't.

Mikee said...

There is an obvious error in surveys about gun ownership, in that many people with their heads screwed on straight and at least one brain cell operating will not answer questions from a stranger on the phone about the firearms they do or do not have in the house.

Your assumptions hit pretty close to my own gun ownership, with guns accumulated in fits and spurts over almost 20 years. Now, how do I account for the rifles, shotguns, and pistols that I technically own, but which are designated in my family as being my childrens' guns?

Molon Labe said...

I just don't see how US gun ownership can be accurately measured. Because we do not have federal registration, I would imagine that a majority of the guesstimates are based on polls. And like Mikee alludes to, there's no way in hell you're going to convince people to divulge their gun ownership info via telephone or other methods of surveys.

Imagine someone from the Healthy Marriage Association calling you and asking you if you own porn and if so, how many items? Sure, you may admit to your copy of Girl's Gone Wild, Drunk Chick's Rock DVD, but are you really going to admit to your vintage copy of Debbie Does Dallas which is still in the wrapper, and your John Holmes "pop-up" book?

*I'm being snarky about the whole porn thing....I would never leave a vintage copy of DDD still in the wrapper!


HTownTejas said...

Personal data point, I'm a white-collar type, single, own 11 guns currently (2 shottys, 2 EBRs, mini 14, .270, .22LR, couple wonder-9s, a 1911 and a .357mag). Seems most everyone I know has at least one. Those into hunting have ~3.

The Armed Canadian said...

I'd argue the numbers are low for a number of reasons.

One, pre-68 guns are not required to have to serial numbers. How many of these guns have changed hands over the years or sit in attics or drawers?

Two, estimates are often derived or trended based on manufacturing data released in the post-68 era where the government had reliable numbers as to what each maker was shipping out. Simply because it was now a requirement of the licensee recordkeeping.

Then that shipping information is assumed that each gun shipped was sold. If S&W ships 400K guns a year, it is assumed all 400K of those guns wound up in private hands that year for simplicity's sake.

Factor those shipping numbers in year to year and taking into account growth or fall of those numbers and you can get a good, rough estimate of the number of firearms in American hands in the past 40 years. It will at least give you the lowball figure.

You can also add imported firearms from overseas that were subsequently made 922(r) compliant and sold on the US market. Like domestically produced guns, these import figures are at least roughly know. It's not like Century is sitting on crates of unsold SKSs and Mosin-Nagants. We know they are in individual hands.

Three, I am certain these figures are based solely on the above information and do not take into account antiques, black powder replicas or personally made firearms. None of these transfers are tracked in any way. I fall into this bucket with several guns so my personal total of guns is actually higher than 4473 data would indicate.

While all of this is my own speculation, I think the 280M number is largely based on known or estimated 40 year production figures and then extrapolating it backward into the pre-68 era to come up with a guess of how many guns were around in America then and adding the two together.

I'd love to see the graph of gun ownership broken out by numbers. Every person I know who owns a gun either has one or two at most or has easily 8 or more. So either the public estimates are way too low or the distribution as pointed out is very uneven. It is entirely possible a small percentage of the population owns a significant fraction of the firearms in this country.

Just poll gun bloggers. If you took the couple hundred gun bloggers on various interlinked blogrolls from this blog, how many guns do you think you'd yield? I'd argue the number would be well over a thousand. More like between two or three thousand. Enough that these types of individuals nationwide would have a statistically significant impact on pushing that curve well to the right from an ownership numbers perspective.

Anonymous said...

Subtract out about 70-80 million children (who can't 'own' guns)... and the numbers start to look even more favorable.

That said, I thought about my friends and co-workers, and one gun households are pretty common (blue leaning major metropolitan area).

I can think of three friends who each have 1 gun for target shooting.

A good friend whose wife won't let him get one (no amount of p@ssy whip noises seem able to get him to man up).

Another who has his carry gun, and a 22.

Another who has his carry gun, a 10/22, and an AR.

At the other end, Dad has maybe a dozen.

I have several dozen.

I have an Uncle who has a 'great room' exclusively for his collection - probably 75+ just on display plus handguns stowed away.

I know a couple of retired cops who kept their duty guns and have nothing else.

Another friend of the family has his grandfathers service 1911, who shoots it maybe once a decade.

That said, my friends tend more towards real Americans by self selection.

I even know an Obama supporter with a C&R and a collection that could outfit his own militia. (and no, I have no idea what kind of cognitive dissonance allowed this) He genuinely believed the lies and was dumbfounded when Holder made his statement. I try to balance keeping a decent guy as a friend and pointing out what a muppet the teleprompter president is.

In a bar (Galaxy Hut, Arlington, VA), I once met a self identified commie who claimed to have a collection of Mosins, Tokarevs, and Makarovs ready for the workers revolution.

My point (if I have one) is that there is no typical gun owning household, they're all over the map. Trying to nail down 'typical' is a losing game.

kaveman said...

Excellent discussion and insights. I just had to start wondering about the stats after I asked my buddy how many guns he owned and he responded, "I honestly have no idea."

Ride Fast said...

I tend to think of my wife and son's rifles as theirs even though I inherited some and bought the others as a gifts.

I don't tend to consider some of my antique guns as guns when talking about how many I own. They may technically still work but I have no plans on firing a two hundred year old flintlock, for example.

Unless a poll is very specific dramatic under counts seem likely.

Anonymous said...

Officially, ZERO.

Unofficially? Functional - >2x average; Relics, <1x average

Overall, just under 3x average. and I would have a few more if I could get them...



Tam said...

I've got a couple...

kaveman said...

Tam, you probably have more 1911's than most have guns. Yes, I sneak a peak at your blog every now and then.

Britt said...

There was a UN survey a couple years ago I think. Take it with a grain of salt, because the intent was to push for a big small arms treaty that would ban trade in firearms to everyone, not just to terrorists and other nasties.

They said there were 500 million guns in America. For what that's worth.

It's really quite something. Just think the last century. Sears Roebuck, local stores, military surplus, war trophies from four major wars, old guns from flintlocks to cap and ball revolvers.

They keep for a long time, they always have a use, and they don't take up that much space. There could be more then 500 million.

Anonymous said...

Meh, surveys. If you ask my wife she'll tell you about my shotgun and my hunting rifle.

Because everything else is "for sale" in my eternal quest to trade a battered SKS for a class III Thompson. Hey, it could happen.

I refuse to tell snoopy Democrats (but I repeat myself) how many guns I have. This includes my kids doctor who got an earful from me when she asked.

And most of my buys have been private sales, so no paperwork extant for snoopy gov't types (but I repeat myself again).

At least one of my guns came from a Canadian collector who moved South in the 70's, so I have a hard time believing my 1944 Longbranch SMLE (yes, you may envy me this gun) is on anyone's list anywhere.

pops1911 said...

I'm sure the numbers are way too low - I had 2 Rugers in a small safe & I heard some noise - by the time I looked again, there was this nice little baby LCP in there too - they do reproduce!!

PN NJ said...

I ran a similar exercise a year or so back. I think the 80 million figure is too high. My own estimate was somewhere in the 60-65 million range, which is still pretty good if you adjust for the sizeable number of children that are unlikely to own guns.

I also ran across an old DOJ/FBI study that noted that most guns are owned by a small percent of all gun owners (in effect, an 80/20 rule similar to many other types of products).

Anonymous said...

10 years ago all I had was a 22 rifle. Then I heard about this one-gun-a-month "requirement".

At least that's what I thought I heard...

Isaac Coverstone said...

I can hardly keep count of the guns I've got, let alone everyone else. I think I've got close to twenty, a little bit of everything.