There are nearly twice as many guns in the average gun-owning household today as there were 20 years ago, say new Washington Post estimates based on data from surveys and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2013, there were an estimated 8.1 firearms in the typical gun-owning household. In 1994, the average gun-owning household owned 4.2 guns. These numbers comport with what survey research has shown for several years. The share of gun-owning households has been declining over 20 years, according to numbers from Gallup and the General Social Survey.
On the other hand, domestic firearm production and imports of firearms have risen sharply, particularly in recent years. If those numbers are correct, it follows that increasing gun purchases are being driven primarily by existing owners stocking up rather than first-time buyers. The General Social Survey’s data which show household ownership rates falling from over 50 percent in the 1970s to around 32 percent today. Some gun rights advocates dispute those numbers, preferring Gallup’s household ownership rates, which have remained essentially flat over the same period. Even Gallup’s numbers show a decline in gun ownership since the early 1990s, from 54 percent of households in late 1993 to 43 percent this fall. Regardless of whether overall ownership rates are flat or falling, one thing that’s largely been overlooked is how more guns and fewer gun owners means that firearms are being concentrated in fewer hands than ever before.