Guns, Guns, Whose Got The Guns?

By C.D. Michel

Lots of Guns & Firearms
Guns, Guns, Whose Got The Guns?

USA – -( No one knows how many American households have guns. That’s the good news.

The only way to know with any degree of accuracy would be through national registration, which hasn’t happened – at least not yet.

But a lack of knowledge doesn’t keep the gun ban lobby from trying to marginalize those who choose to own a gun. These gun control groups crowed recently when various mass media outlets parroted a report from the General Social Survey (GSS) claiming;

That the number of American households owning guns was declining…?

This headline surprised everyone who sells guns, performs background checks and visits gun ranges, because they all have anecdotally witnessed the growing mass appeal of firearms, and the dramatic increase in business it has caused for the last decade or so.

During that time, there were more guns sold than ever before. So clearly, more guns are out there that ever. But what percentage of American households has one? Is that percentage really declining?

Polling Controversy

Curiously, while the GSS survey showed a downward slope in the number of households admitting to owning guns, ABC news, Gallup Poll and other organizations have shown that the number of gun owning households has remained steady over the decades, and has even escalated in the last few years.

We wanted to include Pew Research in this post, but on their web site we only found two data points for gun ownership surveying. That’s not enough to be used to establish a trend. Pew also asks respondents if there is a “pistol or rifle” in the house, which may have lost them a huge number of positive responses from people who instead own revolvers, and know the difference between a pistol and a revolver. [same for shotguns]

Gallop Gun Control Owneship Trends
Gallop Gun Control Owneship Trends

Some folks claim that the Gallup and ABC numbers are unreliable, and point to drops and peaks in ownership between select years as proof. But because all polling organizations collect the fewest samples possible to have a statistically reliable survey (within an acceptable margin of error), momentarily shifting attitudes can cause seemingly odd fluctuations in results. Have a look at public reaction to new gun control proposals at the national level, and to people simultaneously denying to pollsters that they own guns, and you see some curious parallels (e.g., the threat of more gun control causes some people to decline to admit they own guns).

So with GSS reporting something very different than other polls, we have to ask why? What is different about the GSS survey and the changing population that might cause any two surveys about trends in gun owning households to be so far apart?

Lots of Guns & Firearms
If someone from GSS shows up at your door step with a clip board and asks the same probing questions, your answers may be very, very different.

What’s to Like

For starters, we have to be leery of a polling organization with ties to the gun control movement’s major financier and with a proclaimed bias toward gun control. GSS is based in Chicago, Illinois, home town to Barack Obama and his old employer the Joyce Foundation. Joyce has been referred to as the “gun control industry’s bank.” Joyce has given money to buy entire issues of a law schools’ law review publication in order to print only anti-Second Amendment articles, has paid Hollywood agencies to pitch anti-gun script ideas to directors, has persuaded doctors in various universities to create anti-gun epidemiology research masquerading as criminology, and is the money (along with Michael Bloomberg) behind any number of other gun-control efforts.

Surprise, surprise; Joyce gives money to GSS as well.

Maybe that’s why Tom Smith, head of GSS, likes the alleged declining rate of gun ownership in his polls. As he gleefully points out, such a decline would “make it easier for politicians to do the right thing on guns” by passing more restrictive regulations. Does that sound objective to you?

The GSS Methodology

Even if we assume GSS is not intentionally rigging the data, their methodology is nonetheless highly suspect. Most pollsters conduct anonymous telephone interviews using random digit dialing, which in turn increases anonymity, which in turn leads to more honest responses (a Silicon Valley marketing research acquaintance of mine claims that non-anonymous polls are only two steps above junk science). GSS surveyors instead physically go to people’s homes.

If Gallup calls you on the phone and asks if you own a gun, you’ll give them one answer. If someone from GSS shows up at your door step with a clip board and asks the same probing questions, your answers may be very, very different.

The Citizenship Issue

Self Reported Household Gun Ownership and Citizens Status
Self Reported Household Gun Ownership and Citizens Status

How polling non-citizens skews responses to gun ownership surveysPublic opinion polling companies regularly poll only registered voters. One reason for this is that if you are measuring a public policy issue, you only want to hear from people likely to vote and thus change public policy.

Voters in federal elections have to be citizens. It’s the law. So a face-to-face surveying of people, some of who are not citizens, about their gun ownership likely produces very different survey responses. In fact, the slope of the declining line in positive gun ownership responses to the GSS survey mimics the declining percent of the United States population that are citizens (our chart includes both legal and illegal non-citizens).

What is the significance of this? Immigrants from countries where the police are criminals and guns are banned may not want to be perfectly honest with a pollster who knocks on their door about the guns in their home.

The Woman Issue

Long ago it caught the attention of criminologists that women report household gun ownership at about a 10% lower rate than men. But in the 1980s, women started becoming a larger part of the gun owning community. This was mainly due to women’s liberation, and more women choosing to fend for themselves. This growing segment of women gun owners has kept quieter than men, which skews poll numbers accordingly. If GSS is not modeling demographic ratios correctly and not properly compensating for this underreporting of the women that they interview on household doorsteps, then for that reason alone their numbers are unreliable.

Ask Bubba Thomson of Pascagoula, Mississippi if he owns a gun and he’ll invite you in to show off his collection. Ask María Rodriguez of Chicago (and of uncertain immigration status) the same question, and she might not provide an honest answer.

Add all these issues together, and the quality of the GSS survey is compromised.

Lots of Guns & Firearms
The growing segment of women gun owners has kept quieter than men, which skews poll numbers accordingly.

What We Don’t Know Isn’t Hurting Us

This little controversy has ranged for many years, and during those years the violent crime rate has plunged. GSS’ Tom Smith may want declining gun ownership numbers because they encourage politicians to “do the right thing.” Perhaps the Joyce Foundation will continue giving his polling outfit some extra cash (the Joyce Foundation gave them a wad back in 2005 “to add a selection of gun-related questions to its 2006 General Social Survey.”)

Many non-GSS pollsters say we have just as many gun owning households as we did before. Meanwhile, America owns more guns than ever before, whatever the number of gun holding households.

More guns, less crime. Maybe we can do with one less polling organization.

About: is an online research resource designed primarily for use by attorneys and interested firearm owners. strives to provide easy access to and facilitate understanding of the multitude of complex federal, state, and local firearm laws and ordinances, administrative and executive regulations, case law, and past and current litigation that defines the California firearms regulatory scheme in theory and practice.

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What would be the point of gun Registering, There is only one, tax collection! The government would call it a registration fee, that’s code for tax. You register your vehicle and pay by size, weight maybe value. The money is collected and used by government. If I and everybody else had to pay a fee to register all the guns we own the government may think there would be less gun ownership. Shows you how they think. It would happen at the time of purchase, well we already pay taxes on the sales transaction, This is the path to mass… Read more »


Oy Jack!
You mean to tell me that the good men of Oz were not as prudent as those palmy’s of Old blighty?
Why I’m told that if the various Mrs O’Grady’s and Mrs. Hawkin’s were to till their roses too deeply there would be clanking noises?

Nick Orda

In my home state of Pennsylvania, anytime a handgun is purchased, in addition to the federal 4473 form, a second form must be filled out that goes to the Pennsylvania State Police. This form includes all of the purchasers information along with the make, model, serial number, and caliber of the handgun. I believe this requirement came into effect sometime in the late 90’s but I cannot voice for the exact year. Prior to this taking effect, to my knowledge, no such secondary record was required. When I questioned my local FFL dealer on the reasoning behind such a requirement,… Read more »


A message to my American friends from my home Australia.
NEVER let the politicians create a register. Once registered, your guns will no longer be yours,
you will simply be looking after them until your government comes to collect them!


Registration was tried here in Canada for several years for long guns. It was a dramatic failure costing tax payers over 1 BILLION dollars only to have it squashed after 5 years of the stupidity. As always….guns don’t kill people…people kill people with whatever is at hand.


Yeah, people kill people, but guns makes it a whole easier. There is no logical reason, other than the profit of gun companies’ stockholders, for background checks and resignations to be the law of the land. While this is a free nation, there has to be rules for everyone’s safety, not just the misinterrputers of the US Constitution.


Eddie, Learn from history. Remember the old west adage about God creating men, and Col. Samuel Colt making them equal. The point is that a firearm is an equalizer, and freedom to keep and bear them is vital to a free nation. There isn’t any justification for limiting transactions to FFLs or filling out forms or for restricting any type of firearm or accessory. Hopefully the tide is turning toward the direction of returning our freedoms, nationwide Constitutional carry, purchasing handguns in states other than where you live, etc. It takes vigilance, and especially voting out the scheming politicians who… Read more »

Warren Michelsen

“Whose Got The Guns?”?

Please, it’s “Who’s Got The a Guns.”

Ammo land comes off as looking a trifle uneducated. Is that the image you want?!?


Warren M: It is comments like yours make all of us look like gun fanatics. First, you take the time to correct an article sentence structure versus actual context. Which is a waste of time. It is a very small percentage like yourself that does this. The rest of us take in the message whether correct or not. Second and most importantly, in your arrogance and lack of proof-reading abilities, you re-write the Headline with a freaking typo! “Who’s Got The– a — Guns.” What does the ‘a’ represent? Too funny. Feels like the Pot calling the Kettle black! or… Read more »


Anytime an FFL calls in NICS on a firearm purchase they (FBI) knows who is purchasing what firearm ! You don’t think they keep that information and that 4473’s are the only record of the transaction ? Not hardly ! The ATF was going to FFL’s wanting copies of 4473’s,and in some cases the original document. Highly illegal for that to happen ! But unfortunate alot of FFL’s gave in to these high handed,intimidation tactics. I can bypass the b/g check in Texas because of my CHL ! If possible you dont want the ATF to know anything about your… Read more »


I would have truthfully and simply stated, “I assure you there is NOT ONE gun in this household.”

It’s true. There’s way more than one.


it is none of their business!


Ring, Ring, Ring-
Caller-We are taking a survey about firearm ownership in US homes, So do you have firearms in your house?
Answer-Hell no! all our guns were lost in a flash thunderstorm out on the lake. Yes, they all sank to the bottom.


I am a FFL and co-leader of a women’s shooting group. When women get into shooting, guns replace shoes for what they collect. Where we live, we have bears and mountain lions in abundance. If one is going into the woods a 45 cal. will do nicely. A shotgun works well inside the home for break-ins. Everyday carry will be a smaller firearm. For a night on the town, a new Sig 238 will fit in any clutch bag or inside the waistband holster.


In our present political climate, with a pResident, a house and senate that we cannot trust, who seem to be out to destroy the United States, no one who loves America and their freedom, would admit to owning a firearm. They have proven their loyalty to their constituents by their ACTIONS, with their attempts to ban firearms and ammunition. I disagree with you that there is no gun registration. Try going to your local gun shop to purchase a new gun and avoid filling out a background check form. Does the federal government toss out those forms? I doubt it.… Read more »


ATF form 4473 is kept by the FFL for 20 years or until the FFL is no longer in business. FFL’s going out of business ship their 4473 to ATF along with their bound book .
The new eform 4473 may be different the ATF may be getting a copy not sure.


Every law abiding citizen that wants one and every felon illegally carrying one.


What about the nunya factor. Someone shows up on a doorstep with a clipboard asking about firearms ownership, only to be told, “Nunya biniss”.


I like that, however if that were me. My resopnse would be Nuya biniss with my Smith & Wesson 386 on my side.