America’s 300 million guns concentrated in fewer and fewer hands
By now, you’ve probably heard that there are nearly 300 million privately owned guns in the United States, almost one gun per person. As disturbing as that is, what’s even scarier is this: A minority of Americans own all of these weapons and just 20 percent are hoarding the majority of them.
Following the massacre at an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre over the summer, CNN conducted an analysis of US gun ownership that revealed that “the number of U.S. households with guns has declined, but current gun owners are gathering more guns.”
A decreasing number of American gun owners own two-thirds of the nation’s guns and as many as one-third of the guns on the planet — even though they account for less than 1% of the world’s population, according to a CNN analysis of gun ownership data.
If that’s not troubling enough, here are findings from other studies that CNN cites:
A study published in the Injury Prevention Journal, based on a 2004 National Firearms Survey, found that 20% of the gun owners with the most firearms possessed about 65% of the nation’s guns.
A 2007 survey by the U.N’s Office on Drugs and Crime found that the United States, which has 5% of the world’s population, owns 50% of the world’s guns.
The number of households owning guns has declined from almost 50% in 1973 to just over 32% in 2010, according to a 2011 study produced by The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. The number of gun owners has gone down almost 10% over the same period, the report found.
While it’s next to impossible for even federal law enforcement officials to know detailed demographics about gun owners (the Federal government is prohibited from keeping a registry by the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986), a 2011 Gallup survey of self-reported gun ownership found that the majority of owners are “men, Republicans, and Southerners.” The fact that this population of mostly white males is an aging and therefore declining demographic may be one reason why the number of gun owners has declined, according to an analysis by the Violence Policy Center.
This brings me back to one of the most frequent arguments invoked by (usually white male) gun rights advocates who insist they need their guns to defend themselves from a potentially hostile and authoritarian government (I think that for some, this is a fantasy they dream about). Let’s pretend for a moment that it makes sense to sacrifice our children to massacres every so often in exchange for unregulated access to military-style rifles that we may one day need to use against a tyrannical government. Do gun owners really think their guns will protect them from F-16s and drone strikes? Perhaps they should begin stockpiling hellfire missiles to prepare for the coming battle. (Disclaimer: please don’t, this is just a joke)
The real reason gun owners stockpile weapons and ammunitions is a fear of looming gun control legislation that, ironically, never comes to fruition. In the aftermath of Obama’s election, gun sales skyrocketed. People were scared he was going to take away their guns. The same happened following the massacres in Tucson and Aurora, sparked by the (bullshit) talk about a need for reasonable gun restrictions by the media and lawmakers.
Obviously, a majority of these gun owners aren’t using their firearms to kill people. But do they really need 47 guns and $100 thousand worth of ammunitions, the amount found in the home of an Indiana man who over the weekend threatened to kill as many people he could at a nearby elementary school? You would think that an individual purchasing such a large amount of ammo would raise red flags in the law enforcement community, but “Ammunition purchases are functionally unregulated and off-limits to federal law enforcement,” according to Wired. “The only way law enforcement would know about bulk ammo purchases is if the dealer decides he or she is dealing with a shady customer and alerts the authorities.”
Relying on the voluntary tattling of gun dealers doesn’t seem like the wisest strategy in deterring mass killings given that Aurora’s shooter easily purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition from Amazon without raising suspicion. The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School was carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition, enough to kill every single student in the school if he had more time.
Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that a small portion of Americans are hoarding not just hundreds of millions of weapons but also stockpiling massive amounts of ammo? It’s frightening to think what these particular gun owners might do if America were to suddenly adopt common sense gun restrictions…