How Many Guns Are There In U.S.? No One Really Knows


The American Public Health Association will join the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in a national summit to tackle gun violence. They describe the issue as “one of the biggest public health issues facing America”. You wouldn't know it from looking at the state of gun research, reports The Guardian. Ask one of the dozen or so active firearms researchers in the U.S., and they won't be able to answer the fundamental question: how many guns are in the nation? Beyond a 1996 ban on federal funding for firearms research, states have passed dozens of laws in just the past five years that make once-public data on gun ownership confidential. The best available data comes from a private survey by the University of Chicago, and that is an estimate, finding that 79 million U.S. households have guns. Other surveys have estimated there are between 270 and 310 million.

“There are lots of holes in actually having any data on the number of guns in our communities,” said Fred Rivara, head of pediatrics at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and Seattle Children's Hospital. “You look at, well, are people with mental health problems more likely to have guns, or are people with past problems more likely to have guns, we don't know because we don't have that data.” States have not made the job easier. From Florida to Maine to West Virginia to Wyoming, a variety of provisions have exempted concealed-carry permit data from public disclosure or stopped permitting altogether. For researchers, these provisions make it impossible to study guns within a given zip code or cohorts of owners who might have run-ins with the law. “The fact of the matter is we know how many people own cars, we know the identity of every car in the United States … Yet we don't know who owns guns, and we don't know how many guns there are in the United States,” said Rivara.

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