Gallup Poll: Gun Ownership Soars in U.S.

A few weeks ago we covered the new Gallup poll that investigated the public’s opinion with respect to gun control and gun laws.  As that poll found, the public’s support for gun owners and gun ownership has grown to record heights, but the question of whether or not more Americans actually own or possess firearms was not addressed.

One could have reasonably assumed that the uptick in support for gun owners would be mirrored by an increase in the number of law-abiding gun owners.  But is this true?  A recently published complementary Gallup poll may help answer this question.

The new poll found that, “Forty-seven percent of American adults currently report that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property. This is up from 41% a year ago and is the highest Gallup has recorded since 1993, albeit marginally above the 44% and 45% highs seen during that period.”

It should be noted that the way the questions is worded, “Do you have a gun in your home/property” is a little deceiving as to answer “yes” to this question, one does not necessarily need to own the gun (it could be owned by a family member, spouse, etc.).   So, to suggest that 47% personally own a gun would be misleading.  Rather, it would be more appropriate to say that 47% are directly exposed to firearms (more on this breakdown below):

us gun households 1991-2011 chart

The poll also examined gun ownership/gun exposure across the political divide.  Those results were telling in that both Republicans and Democrats have realized an increase.

Gallup reported, “Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) are more likely than Democrats (including Democratic leaners) to say they have a gun in their household: 55% to 40%. While sizable, this partisan gap is narrower than that seen in recent years, as Democrats’ self-reported gun ownership spiked to 40% this year.”

gun in household by party

There is also a regional breakdown of gun ownership/gun exposure.  Gallup noted, “Gun ownership is more common in the South (54%) and Midwest (51%) than in the East (36%) or West (43%) — a finding typical of Gallup’s trends in gun ownership by region.”

gun in household by region chart

As for the specific question of who personally owns a gun, Gallup also addressed this.  Unfortunately they didn’t include a timeline graph to see how this has fluctuated (or grown) over the years.  Here are the findings along with a table that shows the numbers for this year.

“Since 2000, Gallup has asked respondents with guns in their households a follow-up question to determine if the gun belongs to the respondent or to someone else. On this basis, Gallup finds that 34% of all Americans personally own a gun.

The gender gap in personal gun ownership is wider than that seen for household ownership, as 46% of all adult men vs. 23% of all women say they personally own a gun.

Middle-aged adults — those 35 to 54 years of age — and adults with no college education are more likely than their counterparts to be gun owners.”

summary of gun ownership statistics

Okay, to clarify things a bit, 47% of those polled are directly exposed to firearms (have guns on property).

Of that 47%, 34% personally own guns and 13% claim that someone else owns the gun(s) on their property.

So, bottom line, it would be safe to assume that approximately 1/3 of Americans personally own firearms.  Again, it’s a shame Gallup didn’t publish a chart that isolated and tracked this particular statistic over time.  While exposure is important (guns on property), it’s the percentage of people who personally own a firearm that is important.

Gallup makes the following conclusion, “At 47%, reported gun ownership is the highest it has been in nearly two decades — a finding that may be related to Americans’ dampened support for gun-control laws. However, to ensure that this year’s increase reflects a meaningful rebound in reported gun ownership, it will be important to see whether the uptick continues in future polling.”

Yes, certainly future polling is needed to see if gun ownership and support for gun owners continues to flourish in the US.

In the meantime, gun owners need to continue to act as exemplary citizens while spreading the gospel of responsible gun ownership.

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