Lois Beckett covers guns in the United States for The Guardian, and recently cross-posted her work on The Trace, because some researchers at Harvard and Northeastern Universities gave these two gun-control-oriented news organizations early access to their findings from a study of gun ownership in the United States.
Beckett highlighted one particular finding from the survey: That 3% of Americans own half of the civilian gun stock. (I will ignore for now questions both about the survey’s estimate of gun ownership and of the number of guns in circulation, both of which many suspect are low.)
My interest in this story is in its purpose. I am not sure whether this is meant to stoke fear — OMG, people are hoarding guns!!!! — or supposed to be a cause for celebration — HOORAY, gun ownership is a marginal and dying subculture!!!! — among gun control advocates like the authors of the study.
Obviously, I don’t find it either scary or exciting. It’s seems to me just a statement of fact that is probably pretty close to true (plus or minus whatever percentage of gun owners and whatever number of guns actually exist). A few gun owners own alot of guns. I’ve written before about how easy it is for a normal gun owning individual or household to accumulate an “arsenal” based on different types of guns and different types of shooting.
In an interview on NPR, Beckett herself acknowledged that we should not be fearful of these Gun Super-Owners. Robert Siegel asked her, “Is there any evidence that being a super-owner is linked to increased gun violence, whether of suicide or homicide?” She answered, “No, there’s no evidence of that,” and even allowed for the possibility that super-owners “might be a lot safer.”
Given all this, I am not sure what part of the finding Dana Loesch took such great exception to in this tweet:
3% of Americans would be about 10% of gun owning individuals. If they own half, then probably 20% of gun owning individuals own 80% of all guns, which follows the 80/20 rule that 80% of something is dominated by the 20% most interested. Plus or minus whatever percentage, I don’t know what all the fuss is about from either the anti- or pro-gun sides. (And I have gotten quite exercised by other stories about this study.)