Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Is the Gun Culture DYING? Scary Stuff!!!!!

Reuters says "yes." Here's the whole story:

America's gun culture - fading slowly?

By Bernd Debusmann

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Is America, land of shooting massacres in schools and public places, slowly falling out of love with guns?

The answer is yes, and it runs counter to popular perceptions of the United States as a country where most citizens are armed to the teeth and believe it is every American's inalienable right to buy an AK 47-style assault rifle with the minimum of bureaucratic paperwork.

But in fact, gun ownership in the United States has been declining steadily over more than three decades, relegating gun owners to minority status.

At the same time, support for stricter gun controls has been growing steadily and those in favor make up a majority.

This is a little-reported phenomenon but the trend is shown clearly by statistics compiled by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which has been tracking gun ownership and attitudes on firearms since 1972, the longest-running survey on the subject in the United States.

The number of households with guns dropped from a high of 54 percent in 1977 to 34.5 percent in 2006, according to NORC, and the percentage of Americans who reported personally owning a gun has shrunk to just under 22 percent.

So, by the rules of democratic play, one might assume that the majority would have major influence on legislation. But that's not how it works, thanks to the enormous influence of the gun lobby.

The long-term decline monitored by the Chicago survey has buoyed proponents of tighter gun controls. "America's gun culture is fading," says Josh Sugarmann, who heads the Washington-based Violence Policy Center.

According to Sugarmann, those keeping the culture alive and those most vocal in resisting tighter regulations are white, middle-aged men whose enthusiasm for firearms, hunting and shooting is not shared by younger Americans.

Yet, at the moment it's difficult to imagine the U.S. without its gun culture.

But then, who could have imagined France with a ban on smoking in public places, Germany with speed limits on almost half its autobahns, or a black man as a serious contender in this year's presidential elections in the United States?

To what extent gun ownership will continue to shrink depends, at least in part, on a decision by the U.S. Supreme court expected this summer. The court will rule on one of the most acrimonious disputes in the United States: do Americans have the constitutional right to own and bear arms?


At the heart of the long-running debate, argued with more passion than almost any other, is the meaning of the U.S. constitution's second amendment.

Written 219 years ago, it says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

A string of lower court rulings over several decades held that the amendment meant to guarantee the collective right of state militias, not individual citizens. Such rulings have had limited impact: gun regulations vary from state to state and in most, weapons are easy to buy and legal to keep.

There are a few exceptions: handguns are illegal in Chicago and in Washington, where a court ruled in December that its total ban violated the constitution. That is the case the Supreme Court will take up this year.

No matter how it rules, the court's decision is unlikely to make much immediate difference to the mass shootings by unhinged citizens that have become part of American life.

Gun rampages happen with such numbing regularity -- on average one every three weeks in 2007 -- that they barely make news unless the death toll climbs into double digits, as happened at the Virginia Tech university. There, a student with mental problems killed 32 of his peers and himself.

President George W. Bush this week signed into law a bill meant to prevent people with a record of mental disease from buying weapons.

Virginia Tech was the worst school shooting in U.S. history and rekindled the debate over the easy availability of guns in America. There are more private firearms in the United States than anywhere else in the world -- at least 200 million.

While that arsenal has been growing every year, the proportion of U.S. households where guns are held has been shrinking. In other words: Fewer people have more guns.

One estimate, by the National Police Foundation, says that 10 percent of the country's adults own roughly three quarters of all firearms.


That is the hard core, which counts on the gun lobby, chief of all the National Rifle Association (NRA), to throttle attempts to impose restrictions on the sale of firearms.

The NRA, a group that claims some 3 million members, calls itself "America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights" and backs candidates for political office on their stand on one issue -- gun ownership -- regardless of party affiliation.

Politicians tend to pander to the NRA, some more shamelessly than others. One of the Republican candidates for the 2008 presidential race, Mitt Romney, went so far as to falsely claim that he was a lifelong hunter and had received an official NRA endorsement in 2002.

Small wonder, then, that the debates following every shooting massacre tend to focus not on the easy availability of guns but on preventive security measures.

Metal detectors at the entrances of shopping malls, for example. Or bullet-proof backpacks. They were developed in the wake of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, where two teenagers killed 12 students and teachers and then themselves.

The Columbine-inspired backpacks went on sale in August and have sold briskly. "Sales picked up considerably in the Christmas period," said Mike Pelonzi, one of the two men -- both fathers -- who designed and market them. "Our market is expanding."

(You can contact the author at Debusmann@Reuters com) (Editing by Sean Maguire)


Anonymous said...

There's something here I'm not getting: If there's less gun ownership, why is there more violent crime?

Anonymous said...

I suspect we gun owners do have demographics against us. Altho shooting is a sport in and of itself many got introduced to guns by hunting and hunting has long been in decline. My Sporting Clays shooting buddy tried unsuccessfully to get his teenaged grandson interested in shooting clays with us. The clays course I go to is full of balding or grey haired middle aged and older guys for the most part.

Anonymous said...

Do you suppose the gun owners are just becoming less likely to admit to pollsters that they have guns?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "youngsters don't wanna shoot" comment, I think that has more to do with the various clay sports then it has to do with shooting. In my area, clay shooting is for the older folks, but we get pleanty of new shooters shooting USPSA/IDPA/Steel Challenge, etc, the more dynamic and more "tactical" shooting sports.

Anonymous said...

Citing research without showing the details of the research is meaningless, yet the media does it all the time. Who did they survey? Residents of Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C.? Of course ownership would show a decline in areas where you need to practically sign away your first-born before being allowed to exercise your rights.

What were the questions and how were they phrased? A question such as 'how many of your neighbors own guns' might be used intending to get a larger sample size, but would be wildly inaccurate. (Note, I'm not expecting U of Chicago to ask such a question, just using an extreme case for an example).

jon spencer said...

Funny, I seem to not own any guns when someone I do not know asks.

Anonymous said...

This guy is off the rails. I know we shouldn't ignore articles like this (although, with as much opinion as this thing has strewn through it, it's more of a column than an article) but this drivel just needs to go away.

Anonymous said...

The article is a crock. It proved it was bogus when they quoted Josh Sugarman like it was the gospel!

Anonymous said...

If it is true, boy are they gonna miss us when we're gone!
With the current crop of criminals who have been nurtured by the liberals into thinking that they are ENTITLED to a life a crime, all because they had a crappy childhood, or the economy is bad, go on their rampage, what will repel them when they know that every household is "gun-less"? I hear that thr UK is like that now. There, burglary is an occupation!

Anonymous said...

Let's see. Hum, Reuters, University of Chicago, Josh Sugerman. Yep it's just gotta be true.

Anonymous said...

Here's the real reaction every single shooter who reads or hears about this story should have.

Take one .22 pistol or rifle.

Add in hearing protection, shooting glasses, a box of ammo, and a nearby target on a safe range.

Mix with one non-shooter who've you invited to go shooting. (You don't know until you ASK them!)

Stir with a safety briefing, and sprinkle with repeated trigger pulls.

Repeat as often as possible with as many non-shooters as possible.

There are many, many new gun owners and now even multiple gun-buyers around me due to the above recipe.


I don't own firearms, I own tools. Yeah, yeah that's the ticket.

If that's the case why do both brand new walmarts in town have cases full of guns

Anonymous said...

This is no more or less than pre Supreme Court Second Amendment anti gun propaganda.

Someone, with more time than I want or need to devote to this, can take a read of the quoted organizations Annual Report, projects, staff etc. and then try to determine the backgrounds of those connected with the group and where they get their funding.

Walt Rauch

Anonymous said...

The NORC GSS data tries to measure the percentage of households owning guns (a very small part of a very broad survey), but doesn't really adjust for the changing composition of households over time (eg, 2.57 persons per household in 2005 vs 3.14 persons in 1970).

(There are various issues related to NORC GSS data, but I don't think the core results are substantially inaccurate or biased. The VPC interpretation of the results is something else.)

I looked into this issue a few months ago, and it appears that the number of gun owners has been increasing at a modest rate. The increase in shooting sports and self-defense is being offset by a decrease in hunters.

My best estimate of current US gun owners (based on available studies and polls) is 60-65 million, less than the 80 million claimed by the NRA, but still roughly 25% of the US population 14 and older.

Anonymous said...

I agree there are plenty of young shooters in the IPSC/IDPA ranks, and that many responsible gun owners are reluctant to admit same to potentially hostile questioners.

Wasn't Reuters one of the MSM outlets that had PSH when it was reported there are nine privately-owned guns for every ten American citizens?

I know I do my level best to bring that ratio up to parity.

James said...

Personally, I think this whole "guns are dying out in America" is an anti-gun media campaign designed to damage the morale of people that actually give a damn about freedom.

Consider this, though: even if the percentage of gun owning Americans shrinks, how many of the ones that do are obsessive about the issue? Most anti-gun people care much more about 10 other things (health care, economy, Iraq, pining over the days where Stalin was still in power), where most pro-gun folks hold the issue near and dear to their hearts.

If guns are going so downhill, how to explain that every damn time I go to a gun show that there is a new polymer pistol? How to explain the massive increase in concealed carry across the country? Sorry, friends, this article is absolute bullshit!

Anonymous said...

The sinlge most popular Boy Scout Merit Badge in our Council and any other one that we've visited is for "Rifle Shooting". Next comes the one for Archery. or the one for Shotgun Shooting. They're usually tied with each other.
The moral of the story is? Not many scouts join scouting just for being able to participate in the shooting sports, but some actually do. Everyone of them however, becomes interested, or more interested once they get to shoot. So, we need to ensure that we give these opportunities to non-scouts, FOR THEIR OWN FULFILLMENT. This will also help keep our American traditions alive, but the objective is first and foremost, the personal satisfaction of our youth.
Life Member