People who tell pollsters that they own guns: Now you see them, now you don’t. A new poll from Pew Research has found that 44 percent of American households own guns, up a whopping 29 percent from the figure reported in a poll conducted for the same organization two years ago.
Impressed by the incredible trend, the Washington Examiner reported, “more homes are reporting having a weapon inside,” while Bearing Arms said that the poll showed that there is “an increasing number of gun-owning households in the United States.”
However, what these polls really show is that folks shouldn’t put too much faith in polls. It’s no more true that gun ownership has risen 29 percent in the last two years than it declined 26 percent over a two-year period in the early 1990s, as Gallup polling found at the time.
The “decline” a generation ago just happened to take place right as gun control restrictions were being imposed at the federal level. As we explained in July, “Ever since the early 1990s, when then-President Bill Clinton pushed the Brady bill, the federal so-called ‘assault weapons’ and ‘large’ ammunition magazine ‘ban,’ and regulations that drove many gun dealers out of business, many gun owners have not identified themselves as such during the surveys.”
Gallup recognized as much, saying, “A clear societal change took place regarding gun ownership in the early 1990s, when the percentage of Americans saying there was a gun in their home or on their property dropped from the low to mid-50s into the low to mid-40s and remained at that level for the next 15 years. Whether this reflected a true decline in gun ownership or a cultural shift in Americans’ willingness to say they had guns is unclear.”
With President Obama unable to impose gun control during his last months in office, with Americans increasingly supporting gun ownership rights, and with gun control propaganda having been discredited by recent events at home and abroad, some previously cautious gun owners may now be willing to tell a complete stranger on the phone that they own guns. However, such complacency may change in a hurry, if Hillary Clinton is elected and begins using the power of the presidency to undermine gun owners’ interests.
At the end of the day, no one knows what percentage of American households own guns, and no one should know. Even in our present technological age, when some seem eager to reveal things about themselves to anyone who will pay attention, the rest of us surely can understand that there is nothing to be gained, but perhaps something to be lost, by informing complete strangers that we own something of value, be it guns, jewelry, a big screen TV, a stamp collection, or anything else.
If, for that reason, future polls show artificially low numbers of gun owners, as they have for most of the last 25 years, so be it. The only polls that count are the ones that are conducted on Election Day. If enough of us do our civic duty in November, the message we will send will be anonymous, but the whole country will it receive loud and clear.