Nov 022011

This chart from the Gallup survey clearly shows the drop in numbers supporting handgun bans and the rise in numbers of people opposed

The Gallup organization holds an annual ‘crime poll’ every October, and this year’s results have now been released.  And while one does not normally associate Gallup with pro-gun attitudes, the results of their survey this year were so strongly skewed that they couldn’t find any way to try and disguise the sentiments expressed.

A record low of only 26% of Americans now favor an outright handgun ban, with an all-time high of 73% of Americans opposed.

In answer to the more generic question about if gun laws should be made more strict, less strict, or kept the same, an all time low of 43% of the population favored making laws more strict.  44% wanted to keep laws as they are, and 11% wanted to make laws less strict.

Even the guns that the media most love to hate – so called ‘assault rifles’ were not so vilified this year.  An all time low (gosh, I like typing those words) of only 43% supported a ban on assault rifles.

But unable to suppress all snide comments, Gallup closes its report by saying

Diminished support for gun-control laws may also be tied to the lack of major gun-control legislation efforts in Congress in recent years.

The moral of this story is that although the general population is becoming more gun-friendly, we’re still very vulnerable to the efforts of gun haters in Congress and the media to spin things against us.  And with the sampling error being at least +/- 4%, these numbers are not as significant as we might hope them to be.

In another section of Gallup’s Crime Poll, the survey found that 47% of adults admitted to having a gun somewhere in their house or on their property.  This is the highest number since 1993 and steeply up on last year’s 41%.

Some of the data in this part of the poll seems inconsistent.  For example, women (who unsurprisingly report themselves as being less likely to own a gun themselves) also report a much lower likelihood for a gun being in their household (43%) than do men (52%).  If we accept that the largest majority of households have both a man and a woman in them, while there could be understandable differences between personal ownership of men and women, the household ownership numbers should be more closely matching.

This discrepancy reminds me a bit of polls about sexuality.  Heterosexual men generally claim to have twice as much sexual experience as do heterosexual women – a clearly impossible result because each sexual experience by a heterosexual male clearly involves a heterosexual female too.  The numbers should be close to identical.  The huge difference suggests either than men exaggerate or women diminish their sexual experiences – and quite possibly, both men and women are simultaneously lying.  So it is possible that there is some ‘inaccurate answering’ in the gun survey, too.

Gallup themselves postulate that the increased results for gun ownership might not be accurate, based on whether or not people are willing to admit to a stranger on the phone that they own guns or not.  This is an understandable issue, so one should view the numbers Gallup reports as being the absolute lowest levels of gun ownership, rather than the likely exact numbers.

Our guess is there are elements of both real increases in ownership and also a greater willingness to admit to gun ownership.  The other relevant data point is the number of guns being sold every month/year – this being a number that has been steadily and consistently rising over the last some years.  With guns having a very long life before being eventually scrapped/discarded, most of the new guns being purchased are adding to the total inventory of guns in the country, rather than simply replacing existing guns.

As we calculate in our article about increasing gun sales, over the last decade it seems likely than an average of more than one new gun per US household has been sold.  Add that to the inventory of guns already out there, and this poll’s suggestion that 47% of households have a gun in them – while the highest number in 18 years – is probably still very understated.

Here are links to the two sets of Gallup results – on attitudes towards guns and on gun ownership.

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