The great gun buying spree(s) of 2020 have raised the issue of NEW GUN OWNERS. We have no reliable data on how many of those millions of NICS checks being run this year are for people who are buying a gun for the first time. Anecdotal evidence suggests a short answer of A LOT.
But it is also the case that even in a “normal” year, there are about 1 million new gun owners. This is one of the many interesting conclusions from a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2018 which my Sociology of Guns students are reading this week.
The study defines “new gun owners” as “current firearm owners who acquired all of their firearms within the past 5 years, but who lived in a home without a gun at some time over the past 5 years.” I think this is a reasonable working definition.
Of interest is how these new gun owners compare to long-standing gun owners (defined as all the rest of current gun owners in the survey). Some readers may recall aspects of these findings I highlighted in my National Firearms Law Seminar talk in 2019 (text here for those who don’t like video).
As Table 1 (above) shows, compared to long-standing gun owners, new gun owners are slightly more demographically diverse. They are more female, for example, which is not to say they are a majority female (it is 35.7% for new guns owners vs. 27.3% for long-standing gun owners).
New gun owners are also younger, more racially diverse (though still not VERY racially diverse), more likely to have young children in the home, and more politically liberal (27.9% vs. 12.8%).
New gun owners are archetypes of Gun Culture 2.0, a majority owning just one gun and twice the proportion owning only a handgun compared to long-standing gun owners.
There are a number of other nuances in the article I won’t get into here, but as we are thinking about who the new gun owners in 2020 might be, this article gives a number of suggestive insights.