This Is the Craziest Stat About Gun Ownership In America

Meet the firearm “super owners.”

IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Just 3 percent of Americans own nearly half of the nation’s guns. That’s one of the major findings from what researchers are calling the most authoritative survey on guns in more than two decades. According to the Guardian, which received the an advance copy of the survey, “super owners”—some 7.7 million Americans—own between 8 and 140 guns apiece, 17 on average.

In a series of interviews, researchers at Harvard University and Northeastern University found that super owners are made up of firearms instructors, gunsmiths, collectors, competitive shooters, and preppers. Some have separate rooms in their homes to display their collections; others hoard them alongside water, food, and other survival gear in case disaster strikes. Collectively, they own approximately 130 million of the country’s estimated 265 million guns. (Other estimates put the total closer to 350 million.)

As surprising as that may sound, concentrated ownership is common for most products. The Guardian points out that, according to market experts, the most dedicated 20 percent of consumers typically buy up 80 percent of any given product. The survey’s lead author, Deborah Azrael of the Harvard School of Public Health, says that there’s no research stating “whether owning a large number of guns is a greater risk factor than owning a few guns.”

The new data also sheds more light on the shrinking proportion of Americans who own guns, which dropped from 25 percent in 1994 to 22 percent in 2015, when the survey was conducted. A recent Mother Jones investigation into the nation’s 10 biggest gunmakers noted similar findings: While gun ownership is on the decline, gun owners are stockpiling weapons in record numbers, keeping aloft the nearly $8 billion firearms industry.

The full results of the survey are undergoing peer review and will not be published until next fall.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate