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GunsSeventy million more firearms added to U.S. gunstock over past twenty years

Published 27 September 2016

The estimated number of privately owned guns in America grew by more than seventy million — to approximately 265 million — between 1994 and 2015. Long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, make up the majority of the U.S. gunstock. But handguns represent the majority of new guns acquired over the past twenty years, making up 42 percent of the total civilian-owned gunstock in the United States, compared to one-third two decades ago.

Number of privately-owned firearms continues to grow // Source: nyc.gov

The estimated number of privately owned guns in America grew by more than 70 million — to approximately 265 million — between 1994 and 2015, and half of that gun stock is owned by only 3 percent of the population, according to a comprehensive national survey co-led by Northeastern University (see “3 percent of U.S. gun owners own half of all privately owned firearms in U.S.,” HSNW, 21 September 2016; and “Between 300,000 and 600,000 guns are stolen in U.S. every year – an average of 1,600 every day,” HSNW, 21 September 2016).

The survey, conducted in collaboration with Harvard University, is the first nationally representative survey of firearm ownership and use in more than a decade, according to Matthew Miller, professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern.

“This is the first survey in over a decade to assess why people own guns, how many guns they own, and what their attitudes about guns are,” Miller said.

Long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, make up the majority of the U.S. gunstock. Northeastern U notes, however, that the study found that handguns represent the majority of new guns acquired over the past twenty years, making up 42 percent of the total civilian-owned gunstock in the United States, compared to one-third two decades ago. Although the percentage of adult gun owners in America has slightly declined — 22 percent in 2015, compared to 25 percent in 1994 — because of population growth, in 2015 there were approximately 10 million more U.S. gun owners (55 million) than there were in 1994 (45 million). The researchers report that gun owners each own, on average, more guns today (five) than they did two decades ago (four).

“Gun ownership has become modestly more concentrated,” Miller said, noting that while the median gun owner owns two guns, 8 percent of all gun owners own ten or more guns and these owners account for about 40 percent of the gun stock. Miller stressed that this finding should not distract from the broader observations in the study that approximately one in every three Americans — including one in three children — currently live in homes with firearms, which, he emphasized, we know places all household members at elevated risk of injury and death, especially from suicide.