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Another case of the press taking dictation from The Violence Policy Center

Bernd Debusmann writing at Reuters notes that gun culture in the US is fading. And by notes I mean re-prints Violence Policy Center propaganda. In fact, here’s a link to their study. And by study, I mean a reprint of data from other sources. But it beats their usual method of calling Google searches studies.

Anyhoo, on the article:

Is America, land of shooting massacres in schools and public places, slowly falling out of love with guns?

The answer is yes, and it runs counter to popular perceptions of the United States as a country where most citizens are armed to the teeth and believe it is every American’s inalienable right to buy an AK 47-style assault rifle with the minimum of bureaucratic paperwork.

Yes, let’s open the piece up with some good ol’ misleading PSH. A guaranteed winner when peddling propaganda.

But in fact, gun ownership in the United States has been declining steadily over more than three decades, relegating gun owners to minority status.

And what are these facts? We’ll get to those in a bit.

At the same time, support for stricter gun controls has been growing steadily and those in favor make up a majority.

More facts? Zogby disagrees. Their poll is from August, not 2006 like the Violence Policy Center’s. And even in 2006, Gallup disagreed. And the trend is going in exactly the opposite direction that you say it’s going.

Here’s some of the aforementioned facts:

The number of households with guns dropped from a high of 54 percent in 1977 to 34.5 percent in 2006, according to NORC, and the percentage of Americans who reported personally owning a gun has shrunk to just under 22 percent.

Well, people who own guns tend to not be the kind that answer surveys. At least, those that I know. As TP noted:

On firearms, the GSS states that the numbers of owners are decreasing when training courses are filled to capacity across the nation, are constantly being expanded, and sales are booming,. while the Gallup poll has a difference of nearly 20 million more owners in comparison and a similar number of respondents.

The trend seems to be that after a couple of decades of decline (the 1980s and 1990s) that gun sales are now going up. Notably, there were spikes in gun sales subsequent to 9-11 and Katrina. And there were reports by gun dealers of increases after the VT massacre. And just after the expiration of the assault weapon ban, gun sales surged. And, of course, there are regular reports about how gun sales are increasing:

Gun sales up 36%
Guns sales up 14%
Handgun sales up
And S&W is always reporting record sales of handguns.

So, if gun ownership is on the decline, who the hell is buying all these guns? And why are gun sales increasing? Recently, some of the increase in reported sales dollars can be tied to the increase in material costs for guns and ammunition. As I’ve said before:

What we (and by we, remember that to the VPC I am the gun lobby too) have been saying is that there was a decline for decades in gun ownership but recently (specifically after 9/11, Katrina and liberal CCW laws) gun ownership has increased quite a bit. Specifically, handgun sales have increased. And this increase was the first increase in probably decades. And there’s also the fact that gun makers are still making guns. Where do those go? See past posts on gun sales here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The trend, IMO, is a simple one: people are buying handguns and EBRs for defense. Hunting is on the decline but people are valuing self-defense. Industry reports seem to support that conclusion.

Sebastian notes:

Quite often when you read op-eds in the main stream media, they were actually placed by groups that advocate on behalf of that organization. It’s a dirty little secret in the world of issue advocacy. I would not be shocked to discover that this op-ed was written by Violence Policy Center themselves, or some other issue oriented group.

15 Responses to “Another case of the press taking dictation from The Violence Policy Center”

  1. Rob Says:

    Good post.

  2. Daniel Says:

    Yes. Very good post and right on the money.

  3. buzz Says:

    The spike in sales after 9/11 or Katrina or even the LA riots prove the pro 2nd amendment point. While maybe not all homes have guns, clearly there is a large segment who want the option to buy one when they feel it’s needed. I don’t write letters to the editor critical of the government on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value my 1st amendment rights.

  4. d Says:

    nice, was hoping you’d get around to spanking this guy. this sort of thing

    “Written 219 years ago, [The 2nd Amendment] says…”

    pisses me off too. Like the First Amendment wasn’t.

    so much for your blood pressue though…

  5. Crazy Gun Guy Says:

    Gun ownership may be increasing, but I think the gun culture is in serious trouble.

    Just because somebody purchases a .22 or .38, maybe gets some training (often of dubious quality), and then leaves the gun in the nightstand for a few years does not make him a member of the gun culture. Or even dependable pro-gun voters.

    The big problem is the dwindling access of to places to shoot. I don’t know about the rest of the nation, but where I live (Colorado), population increase and development have closed a few ranges. The ones that remain — an hour or more drive away — are more crowded. Add to the mix that Range Officers often act like elitist dicks — in the name of “safety,” of course, and not some power trip — and other gun club members are only slight less pleasant to be around, I’ve given up on trying to get people involved in shooing many years ago.

    It’s simply not worth it to drive 60 or so miles each way (especially with today’s gas prices) to have an experience that’s often more stressful than enjoyable. Perhaps when I have my own private shooting range someday, that will change. Until then, Ive let my CCW expire. And I’m selling off my gun collection that’s so large, the inmates in Canon City know me as “Crazy Gun Guy.” Not only is shooting “a hell of a lot of work if you don’t like it,” it’s become a lot more work for those of us that do.

  6. CCMCornell Says:

    Even if gun ownership was sinking into a minority, what difference would that make? Isn’t oppression of a minority by a majority still wrong? Aren’t the rights stated in the Constitution amendments supposed to protect us from even majority-supported government action? And what of justification for laws? The link between legal gun ownership and threat to safety is lacking in evidence.

    As to gun culture, to what extent has culture in this regard been affected by government coercion through limitations imposed by bans and extensive bureaucratic checks and paperwork? People need to remember that the Caesars, Hitlers, segregations and genocides were put in force by majority-supported governments and those governments, in turn, supported the related cultural values.

  7. SayUncle Says:

    CCMCornell & Crazy Gun Guy make excellent points.

  8. Max Says:

    So the gun culture is a minority. Isn’t that a Good Thing? I mean, don’t we PROTECT minorities in this countrry?

  9. Jason Says:

    I found myself accidentally sucked into the “gun culture” back around 1995 when I was 21, had extra money on hand, and thought it would be cool to own a handgun, even if it was impractical and expensive to shoot. It was all downhill after that.

    It’s been my experience since this time, both with friends and on online forums, that there is less and less uneasiness and ignorance of guns, especially the evil black rifles. It’s seems like everyone is getting or owns an AR-15 now. Furthermore, the gunowners of today do not take their freedoms for granted like the fudds of old and are, as a result, much more politically active.

    So even if the total number of gunowners has decreased, more and more are valuing guns for defense instead of hunting. Consequently, the number who are willing to vote to protect their rights has increased as well.

  10. Alcibiades McZombie Says:

    Gun ownership declined in the 80s and 90s, at least in part, because of all the restrictions governments started adding.

  11. Kim du Toit Says:

    Actually, I call bullshit on the very first statistic.

    U.S. pop in 1980 (close enough): 226 million.

    If the “54% gun owners” number is correct, does that mean that there were 100-odd million gun owners in 1977?

    I wish.

  12. D Says:

    thing is… guns don’t mysteriously de-materialize, just becuase you stop thinking about them. If you got the family heirlooms passed down to you, where are they in the statistics? People who own and use guns might be changing, I believe. Hunting, has become somewhat less popular as the years have gone on, and that makes a difference. You don’t necessarily shoot a handgun much, esp. with the range issues that have been pointed out. But if you go hunting every year, or more than once a year.. then you have more comefort being around guns, even if you are using different sorts… And then there are concerned citizens like me. I know how to use ’em, but currently I have no need of one. If it looked like I did, I wouldn’t hesitate. In addition, I will always support the second as the right of an individual. If there was some kind of nightmare scenario where we were being invaded by guys-from-somewhere-else… well then I have a friend who like to collect the things, and he could surely arm me and 10 others for protection.

    So… the other thing? The never was a ‘gun-culture’ that is some kind of monolithinc entity…There are legal owners that have their reasons, and there are criminals that… are criminals.

  13. Mark B. Says:

    “Actually, I call bullshit on the very first statistic.

    “U.S. pop in 1980 (close enough): 226 million.

    “If the “54% gun owners” number is correct, does that mean that there were 100-odd million gun owners in 1977?

    “I wish.”

    Concur with you there, Kim. Not even close. No way there were some 130 million gun owners then, not even including those with wall-hangers and non-functioning family heirlooms. The author (whoever the hell it really was) cooked the books.

    Stipulating that the plural of anecdote is not “data”, I think there’s also an underlying demographic phenomenon going on here. I’m a tail-end boomer (born 1959) and graduated high school in ’77, a member of the largest class to have graduated from that particular high school — before or since. Now I’ll grant that the district is in rural far northwestern Kansas, where populations are declining anyway, but what I think may be going on here is that folks my age didn’t have a lot of disposable cash to play with during the ’80s and ’90s.

    We were busy paying for our educations, applying for entry-level professional positions, starting families and buying homes, for example — and dealing with Jimmeh’s stagflation and astronomical interest rates. Now that us boomers are in our late forties, fifties, and early sixties we’ve got some jingle in our jeans and can afford to buy the sorts of firepower we couldn’t back then. In my own case, although I owned, and had since early high school, a 12-guage shotgun, I couldn’t (and didn’t) afford to spring for much more than a fifth-hand Raven or Jennings until I was almost 30 — and those aren’t firearms anyway, they’re paperweights.

    Stats geeks (like Kim) could probably dig up the relevant data and analyze what I’m suggesting here.


  14. Brad Says:

    First off public polling of firearm possession is unlikely to be accurate; how many gun owners polled replied falsely? As the war on guns has ratcheted up so has fear of persecution, so naturally people would lie to protect themselves.

    Secondly on the matter of how many Americans own guns and the size of the ‘gun culture’, I am going to violate what I just said and refer to polling data! I don’t remember where I saw it, but some poll indicated that 10 percent of the public owned 77 percent of all the guns. From my own experience in the ‘gun culture’ that is a number that feels intuitively correct. The real size of the American gun culture is probably about that small and the other gun owners are either casual or accidental owners of guns, such as the widow who inherits some guns.

    But conversely the size of the ‘anti-gun culture’, that constellation of crusaders, activists, bigots, and true believers who want to legislate the gun culture out of existence is probably much much smaller than the gun culture. Taking a rough guess based on HCI vs NRA membership rolls I’d say the anti-gun culture is about 1/10 the size of the gun culture.

    So the real battle over gun control in the U.S. is of a tiny bigoted minority of Americans who belong to the anti-gun culture trying to persecute the larger group, but still small minority, of Americans who belong to gun culture. The vast great majority of Americans are really indifferent to the issue of guns. This is the key to understanding the politics of gun control in America.

    Even though some polls might sometimes indicate ‘majority’ support for increasing some kind of stricter gun control, this almost never plays out in public when it comes to actual election results because the public by and large doesn’t care enough about the issue to effect their vote. Of those who DO care enough about the issue, the pro-gun side outnumbers the anti-gun side by about 10 to 1. That is why gun control is ultimately a political loser at the national level. Only in a small area of the nation in certain localities, such as San Francisco, is their a real majority in favor of gun prohibition.

  15. markm Says:

    Cooked statistics or not, the main thing is that the reasons for gun-owners to lie when asked this question keep getting stronger.

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