Light Over Heat #6: How Many Americans Own AR-15 Style Rifles and Large-Capacity Magazines?

In Episode 3 of “Light Over Heat,” I mentioned a 2021 National Firearms Survey by Georgetown University Professor William English. In Episode 6, I discuss a couple of interesting findings in that survey.

Among the unique qualities of Professor English’s National Firearms Survey is that he asked respondents whether they owned AR-15 style rifles or large-capacity magazines (holding 10+ rounds of ammunition).

English finds that 30.2% of gun owners have owned AR-15 style rifles (around 25 million people), and 48% have owned 10+ capacity magazines (approximately 40 million people).

(From Episode 2 of “Light Over Heat,” remember these are very conservative estimates of ownership rates given the underreporting of gun ownership in surveys.)

Beyond simply being interesting empirically, these findings are relevant to the legal question of whether certain firearms are in “common use.”

Light Over Heat #3: The Changing Face of Gun Owners Today

In this third “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I explore what two 2021 National Firearms Surveys tell us about the diverse and changing face of gun owners today.

The first survey, Georgetown business professor William English’s 2021 National Firearms Survey, highlights the diversity of contemporary gun owners.

The second survey, a 2021 National Firearms Survey by scholars at Northeastern and Harvard University, highlights the diversity of those who became new gun owners from January 2019 to April 2021.

Light Over Heat #2: Big Denominators and Estimates of Gun Ownership in the United States

In this second “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I think about the importance of big denominators in understanding guns and gun owners in the United States, and explain why surveys tend to underestimate the rate of gun ownership.

Accounting for under-reporting of gun ownership in surveys, I conclude it’s possible that 40% of all American adults own a gun, which would be over 100 million people.

That is a mighty large denominator to use when thinking about how normal guns and gun owners are, which was the topic of “Light Over Heat” Video #1 last week.

Results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey

A summary of results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey was posted to the SSRN site back in July. I confess to missing it the first time around because I thought it was the same National Firearms Survey that was fielded by scholars at Northeastern and Harvard Universities this year (results from which about firearm purchasing during the COVID pandemic I commented on recently).

It turns out this is a separate National Firearms Survey, fielded by William English, a political economist at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I’m quite intrigued by the existence of this survey because I have never heard of William English in the field of gun studies and there is nothing in his scholarly background that indicates he would do work in this area.

To say this is certainly not a criticism of William English. People would have said the same about me 10 years ago, also. He seems to be an outsider to the field and I hope that will allow him to bring fresh perspectives to it.

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