GUN OWNERSHIP FACTS
The low down on the real facts behind gun ownership in the United States.
Here’s a look at what the numbers show… and what we can learn from these statistics.
If you’re a gun owner, you probably know that our rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment face constant and continual threats in the form of new legislation aimed at restricting firearm ownership. In the United States, we enjoy unprecedented liberties, and the right to bear arms is one of the foundations upon which the United States constitution was constructed. In the wake of recent shootings, media outlets have worked to paint gun owners in a negative light, but what do the facts say? What can we learn from them? What’s the truth about guns, crime and gun ownership in this country?
Below are a number of statistics gathered by the CDC, National Safety Council and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics that offer a more complete picture.
Not only do these statistics need to be known and shared, but they also serve to teach us something about crime and how to defend ourselves.
Violent Crime is Down
Gun ownership is at an all-time high, and those who claim that legal firearm owners are the root cause of violence should be made aware of the fact that, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, firearm-related homicides were down 39 percent between 1993 and 2011, a very substantial decline.
Some of this has to do with the hard work of law enforcement, but it’s important to bear in mind that there has been a massive increase in the number of civilians who are allowed to legally carry firearms during that same period. Since widespread conceal carry laws were passed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it’s estimated that more than 7 million Americans are armed.
If, as many people indicate, more guns equal more crime, then the statistics have shown the exact opposite to be true.
The simple takeaway from this is that a legally armed population in the United States does not lead to an increase in firearms crime, and the notion that more guns equals more violence simply is not true. The following are some of the more common falsehoods of firearms ownership.
“Since widespread conceal carry laws were passed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it’s estimated that more than 7 million Americans are armed.”
FALSE: AR-Type Rifles are the Weapon of Choice for Criminals
“Black Guns” have received a black eye from the press, but does the recent uptick in AR sales mean that more crimes are committed with these firearms? The answer, quite simply, is no. The vast majority of fatal shootings by criminals—between 70 and 80 percent, according to the bureau of Justice Statistics—involve handguns, and 90 percent of non-violent shootings involve handguns.
The AR platform has become a lightning rod for anti-gun forces who claim that these “assault rifles” (an erroneous description) are used for violent crime. In fact, despite the recent surge in AR sales, these rifles are still used far less frequently by criminals than are handguns, another clear demonstration that increased legal gun ownership does not correlate with higher crime rates.
FALSE: Gun Stores and Gun Shows are a Primary Source of Weapons Used in Crime
The phrase “gun show loophole” has become so commonplace that it is now part of our everyday vernacular, the idea being that criminals can somehow simply walk into a gun show and purchase any firearm they’d like. Not so, says the BJS findings.
The majority of firearms used in crime—77.4 percent—were obtained from friends, family or on the street. Thirty two point six percent of guns obtained for use in crime came from “drug dealer/off street/fence/black market,” and another 7.5 percent of firearms used in crimes were stolen in 2004. Legal purchase accounts for just 7 percent of guns used in crimes, and less than 1 percent of firearms used in violent crimes were purchased at gun shows.
The takeaway here is that legislation aimed at controlling legal purchasing of firearms from retailers and gun shows will do very little to stop violent crime – but it will serve to make it tougher for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. It’s also clear that, with over 7 percent of homicides coming through theft, there’s an imperative for legal gun owners to keep their firearms secured.
FALSE: Attacks Only Happen in Dangerous Neighborhoods in Large, Urban Areas
There’s a notion—a dangerous one—that you can somehow predict when and where violence will occur. Every day we hear people talking about specific neighborhoods where crime is high, and some people even shame victims because they “shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
While it’s true that crime rates vary by location, the notion that violent offenders won’t show up in your neighborhood is false, and the idea that someone forsakes their personal liberties simply because they went for a jog through a rough area
of town or had to stop at a rest area at night during a long drive is appalling. Regardless, crime can happen anywhere. According to BJS figures, the nonfatal firearm violence crime rate from 1997 to 2011 occurred at a rate of 1.3 incidents per 1,000 people over the age of 12 years in areas with populations from 100,000 to 249,999. In the largest urban areas that rate went up to 3.2, but the highest occurrence was in areas with populations from 500,000 to 999,999 at 4.6 per 1,000 people. Likewise, the location where these attacks occurred was widespread; from 2007 to 2011 19.3 percent of non-fatal firearms violence occurred in the victim’s home or lodging, and 22.7 percent occurred near the home. More than 15 percent of these attacks occurred in parking lots or garages, and 22.9 percent of attacks happened in open areas, on the street or on public transportation. The FBI’s national incident-based reporting system showed
that, in 2011, crimes happened throughout the day, but the period from midnight to 12:59 a.m. had the highest crime rate, and the period from 5:00 a.m. until 5:59 a.m. has the lowest crime rate.
The takeaway for gun owners here is that situational awareness—that state of mind training taught by instructors like Colonel Jeff Cooper and others—is essential. There are areas that are more prone to crime, but there is no place that is immune to its effects. Don’t assume that because you are in the right neighborhood or that you are in your own home you can’t be attacked. The key is not to live in fear but rather to remain vigilant.
FALSE: Gun Ownership is Dangerous
There’s a widespread notion (promulgated in no small part by anti-gun media outlets) that firearms ownership is dangerous. The idea that recreational and competitive shooting, hunting, and simply owning a gun puts you at peril is false, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation has compiled statistics from the CDC and National Safety Council that clearly show that shooting isn’t inherently dangerous.
Since record keeping began in 1903, unintentional firearms deaths are down 94 percent, and this is due in part to the fact that firearms owners are more aware of safety procedures and safe firearm storage has become a top priority. This isn’t to say that there isn’t the potential for injury if you handle guns carelessly or allow them to get into the hands of others, but statistically speaking, shooting is not a dangerous affair.
In fact, you’re 56 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than you are while shooting, yet millions of Americans head to work each day on congested freeways without stopping for a moment to think that driving is a perilous affair. Firearms are involved in 0.4 percent of accidental fatalities, far less than poisoning and falls, which account for 29.8 and 23.1 percent of accidental fatalities, respectively.
The Truth About Firearm Ownership in America
Many of these statistics echo what we already know—that the vast majority of American gun owners are responsible citizens and that an increase in the number of firearms does not correlate with a rise in violence. But there are other key points here that may not be so obvious, and it’s clear that the current attack on our Second Amend- ment rights is not an effective means by which to control gun violence simply because restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens does not stop criminals from committing violence.
The repeated attacks on gun retailers, gun shows, manufacturers and America’s millions of gun owners are unwarranted. Despite the fact that crime is down violence still lurks, and it can be hiding around any corner, from the most remote back country hamlet to a major metropolitan area. The key, then, is to be prepared. Having a firearm simply isn’t enough—you need to know how to use that gun (and, thankfully, shooting is a relatively safe activity). What these facts prove is what we, as gun owners, have known for a long time, but with increasing attacks on our rights we need to spread these truths about gun ownership in America. It’s essential to preserve our liberties and protect our rights for generations to follow. HD