More guns in fewer hands
by David Atkins
The New York Times has a new report consistent with other recent data showing a trend downward in the number of people with guns, even as the number of gun sales skyrockets:
The gun ownership rate has fallen across a broad cross section of households since the early 1970s, according to data from the General Social Survey, a public opinion survey conducted every two years that asks a sample of American adults if they have guns at home, among other questions.Go to any conservative or gun-oriented blog or forum, and the trend is obvious: no longer is it considered appropriately macho to just own one or two guns. The true American hero must be in possession of an entire arsenal. That's what the gun lobby has led them to believe--in large part to boost their own profits even as the number of people who want to own these instruments of death plummets. It has worked handsomely for them.
The rate has dropped in cities large and small, in suburbs and rural areas and in all regions of the country. It has fallen among households with children, and among those without. It has declined for households that say they are very happy, and for those that say they are not. It is down among churchgoers and those who never sit in pews.
The household gun ownership rate has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s, according to the survey data, analyzed by The New York Times.
In 2012, the share of American households with guns was 34 percent, according to survey results released on Thursday. Researchers said the difference compared with 2010, when the rate was 32 percent, was not statistically significant.
The findings contrast with the impression left by a flurry of news reports about people rushing to buy guns and clearing shop shelves of assault rifles after the massacre last year at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“There are all these claims that gun ownership is going through the roof,” said Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “But I suspect the increase in gun sales has been limited mostly to current gun owners. The most reputable surveys show a decline over time in the share of households with guns.”
As with so much else in American political life, the gun debate is being driven by an increasingly extremist set of hyper-conservative activists whose numbers are dwindling even as their voices grow louder. At some point politicians are going to realize there just aren't that many of these people anymore. It will take some time to reach that tipping point, but it's coming fairly soon.
A brighter future does lie ahead. It's just a function of time, hard work, and whether the rump conservative base of the country decides to go out of power with a bang or a whimper.