The numbers are compelling.
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A number of independent surveys agree: gun ownership in the U.S. is on a steady decline. In fact, the latest report suggests that gun ownership is at a near 40-year-low, after spiking in the early 1990’s.
The CBS News poll, taken in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, the largest in U.S. history, says that gun ownership has dropped 17 percent since a high mark in 1994. According to the data, just 36 percent of Americans either own a firearm or live with someone who does. – the lowest recorded rate since 1978, according to The Washington Post – and a 10 percent drop since 2012 alone.
However, even if several polls show a reported decline in the number of individuals owning guns, gun sales continue to set all-time marks. And the gun industry has said it’s producing firearms at an all-time rate as well. The simple explanation is that while less Americans are buying guns, those that do are straight up stockpiling them. An earlier report from the Post found that the average gun owner has at least eight firearms in their arsenal.
Of course, the reality of such situations usually involves some nuance. Since this poll was taken in the aftermath of Orlando, it’s possible some respondents were reluctant to proudly declare themselves as gun owners. After all, the same CBS survey found 57 percent of respondents supporting a ban on assault weapons, a huge spike from the 44 percent who supported a similar ban in a December 2015 survey. And with a sample size of just over 1,000 participants, it’s entirely possible these numbers aren’t a concrete reflection of the true level of gun ownership in our country.
But even if these numbers aren’t the gold standard, they do align with the larger trend: Gun ownership is becoming less a part of our national cultural thread and more a highly passionate niche for those who take their Second Amendment rights very seriously in an increasingly disparate political climate.