There Are More Guns Than Ever in America, But in Fewer Hands


In a story that takes a close look at firearms in America, the New Yorker says the country’s 300 million guns give the U.S. the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (Second highest is Yemen, with a rate half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. A survey says the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

Men are far more likely to own guns than women are. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people. Although rates of gun ownership, like rates of violent crime, are falling, the power of the gun lobby is not. Since 1980, 44 states have passed some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their homes for personal protection. The trend seems to surprise even the National Rifle Association. David Keene, NRA president, said, “If you had asked, in 1968, will we have the right to do with guns in 2012 what we can do now, no one, on either side, would have believed you.”

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