We see a lot of estimates of gun ownership in this country. A popular one is how we have something like 400 million privately-held firearms in the United States compared to a population of just 330 million. That’s obviously more guns than people.
Yet other estimates claim fewer than a third of the popular own guns, which means that each gun owner would have several firearms on average, compared to just one or two.
The thing is, that estimate might well be wrong.
[Reason Magazine’s J.D.] Tuccille wrote, “The report dealt in probabilities, with the researchers building profiles of confirmed gun owners. They then applied the profiles across their sample of 3,500 respondents to estimate who was likely fibbing about not owning guns. The results depend on the probability threshold applied, but they came up with 1,206 confirmed owners, between 1,243 and 2,059 non-owners, and between 220 and 1,036 potential but secretive owners lying about their status.”
That caught the attention of Stephen Gutowski, founder of The Reload blog, who featured Tuccille yesterday in a video post about the numbers and potential impact of the study.
“This is something that we assumed, perhaps, for a long time,” said Gutowski. “But now there is a study that is quantifying it to some degree. I mean, the amount that they put on it is that almost half the people who said that they don’t own guns fit the model, at least to a certain threshold, for people who do own guns. So that’s a huge discrepancy. That put — the number would rocket up from something like 33% into the 60 percentage range,” he added.
Tuccille described those who “fib” as “quiet gun owners” who may be driven to be untruthful to pollsters because they are worried about the government or their neighbors finding out they own guns.
For example, he said, those who live in urban areas where gun ownership can be frowned upon may deny owning one. Local culture may also drive denials.
For a while now, there has been an effort to stigmatize gun ownership. People who have posted innocent photos of themselves holding firearms, for example, have seen themselves investigated as potential mass shooters. People who advocate for the Second Amendment are routinely threatened and even doxxed.
So yeah, a lot of people aren’t interested in admitting to owning guns.
I’ve known a lot of people who are a little paranoid that these polls aren’t as anonymous as they claim and refuse to answer them accurately. I’ve known them for years, so while I get that some people might not believe they exist, they do. That I can guarantee you.
The question really then becomes a matter of scale, which is what this discussion really becomes about.
If, in fact, we’re looking at gun ownership being somewhere around 60 percent of the population, that will seriously change policy debates going forward. It’s one thing to try and take guns from the rednecks and hillbillies–the media has done a pretty good job of pretending those guys are the only ones who have them and only have them due to things like racism–but quite another to take it from the inner-city grandmother who is just tired of living in fear.
That changes the math completely.
The issue, though, is that this is a guess, an estimate of just how many people out there aren’t admitting to owning guns. If they all stood up, though, and said they did, what could change?
I’m not telling anyone what to do and I get why people aren’t willing to tell a stranger what they’ve got. I’m just pondering the repercussions of the anti-gunners suddenly finding out just how much of a minority they really are.