Mark Twain was noting a great truth when he repeated the quote (now often attributed to him) that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics,” but obvious trends are another matter. And American gun ownership is trending.
Since the pandemic began, over 10 million Americans have become new gun owners. This number is based on surveys from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which estimates that 8.4 million Americans bought their first guns in 2020 alone, and from likely sales based on background-check data. To put this statistic into perspective, realize that—given that surveys and other data have long indicated there are over 100 million gun owners in the U.S.—the number of armed citizens rose by perhaps 10% in just the last two years.
Whatever the precise number of new gun owners is now, gun ownership is trending up despite the mainstream media’s heavy-handed attempts to steer Americans away from this part of their freedom.
The number of homicides in the U.S. also went up by almost 30% in 2020. This horrific rise in the most violent of crimes was actually the largest single-year increase ever recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Meanwhile, the overall violent-crime rate in the U.S. rose 5.2% in 2020, compared to 2019.
Some have, of course, attempted to blame this increase in violence on America’s legal gun owners. But the biggest reason people give for why they are buying guns is for personal protection against the criminals pushing these violent-crime statistics up. And data from government agencies have repeatedly shown that violent criminals almost exclusively use illegally owned and obtained guns.
Polls Reflect the True Story
Last November, Gallup gave us an indication of how the trend in gun ownership might influence voters. Gallup’s polling showed that support for stricter gun-control measures had fallen to its lowest level in years. The October 2021 survey found that 52% of U.S. adults say they want stricter laws on the sales of guns, which is down from 67% in 2018. The poll also found that the percentage of Americans who support a ban on the possession of handguns fell to 19%, which is the lowest rate ever recorded by Gallup—in 1959, when Gallup first asked this question, 60% of respondents said they thought only the police should be able to carry handguns.
Gallup also found that 88% of U.S. gun owners say they own a gun to protect themselves; this is up from about two-thirds in 2005, and it matches the NSSF’s survey data on why a majority of people say they are buying guns.
People who have recently decided to embrace their Second Amendment rights are clearly reacting to the civil unrest that took place in 2020. Another reason is President Joe Biden’s (D) advocacy for banning guns and further restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. These appear to be the leading factors for why the number of federal background checks for gun purchases hit an all-time high of 21 million in 2020, according to the NSSF.
It also should be noted that gun sales have mostly been going up for the last two decades and more as, to name two more factors, “shall-issue” licensing and, more recently, constitutional-carry legislation have spread, making it easier for citizens to exercise this constitutional right.
This Trend is Affecting Elections
Last November’s election results in Virginia and New Jersey also highlight these trends, as the candidates who opposed Second Amendment freedoms didn’t fare well. A deeper dive into the data from Gallup shows why, as just 14% of self-defined political independents said they want handguns banned.
The desire to protect their Second Amendment rights might not be a core issue for all or even most new gun owners, but it has certainly become a factor to some of them. Common sense tells us new gun owners are at least more likely to react negatively to a candidate who says they want to take their guns away. In a close race, one in which a margin of just one or two percent of the vote makes the difference, new gun owners can shift an election.
Consider how former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) declared that he wanted to pass a ban on popular semiautomatic rifles, and he lost—a 1.5% shift in that election would have made him governor again. The Second Amendment was not treated as a central issue in that election, but given all the attention the issue received just a year before when then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the state's legislature did go after the rights of law-abiding citizens, it nevertheless must have been a factor for Virginians at the ballot box.
Perhaps this growth in gun ownership will help make the Second Amendment a nonpartisan issue again. Certainly, politicians in states or districts that sometimes flip must now be aware that positioning themselves against this constitutional freedom could cost them.
This appeared in the February 2022 issue of America's 1st Freedom.