How many guns are there in the United States today? No one really knows, but research conducted by the Geneva, Switzerland based Small Arms Survey provides the best guesstimate for 2017:
Civilian-held Firearms: 393,347,000
Military-owned Firearms: 4,535,380
Law Enforcement Firearms: 1,016,000
TOTAL FIREARMS ESTIMATE (2017): 398,898,380
I concluded a recent post saying if anyone ever asks you how many gun owners there are in America, you can tell them AT LEAST: 40% of households in America have guns in them and 30% of individuals in America personally own a gun.
Saying AT LEAST is crucial here, because these figures underestimate the actual rate of gun ownership in the United States. How badly they underestimate gun ownership we do not and cannot know precisely. My educated guess is that the underestimate is at least 10%, that 25% would not be an unreasonable amount, and more than 25% is likely.
So, if anyone ever asks you how many gun owners there are in America, you can tell them, No one really knows but PROBABLY:
44 to 50% of households (or more) in American have guns in them
33 to 37% of individuals (or more) in America own a gun
Widely circulated internet meme. Unattributed.
No one knows what percentage of the U.S. population actually owns guns. As with religion, the federal government does not keep official records or collect statistics on gun ownership. So we depend on surveys conducted by organizations like the Gallup Poll, Pew Research Center, NORC/General Social Survey, and others.
Those surveys often produce different estimates of gun ownership rates. Consider data from questions about whether respondents live in a household in which someone (not necessarily themselves) owns a gun (including the margin of error):
Pew Research Center (2017): 39-45% household gun ownership
Gallup Poll (2018): 39-47%
Monmouth University (2018): 43-49%
NORC/General Social Survey (2016): 29-35%
The U.S. population breaks down roughly in thirds –
- Current Gun Owners: 27 to 33%
- Not Currently But Possible Gun Owners: 33 to 39%
- Not Now and Not Ever Gun Owners: 30 to 36%
Americans are politically divided by the issue of guns. But as with other “culture wars,” the fighting is often undertaken by elites, while the muddled masses watch from the sidelines, often with disbelief or revulsion at the true believers screaming past each other.