What Decline? New York Times Uses Poll to Suggest Sharp Drop in Gun Ownership

There's something odd with a Sunday New York Times report on gun ownership in America.  They claim the number of Americans owning guns are at its lowest since the 1970s.  They attribute it to a reduction in violent crime, which contradicts the media narrative that we need more gun control, and the increased rates of Americans settling in urban areas.  The problem is two years ago; the number of Americans owning guns was at 47 percent. Now, it's 35 percent.  So, there was a twelve-point drop in two years, and a little over three months after Sandy Hook. 

How could that be right? Here's what the Times duo of Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff reported:

The gun ownership rate has fallen across a broad cross section of households since the early 1970s, according to data from the General Social Survey, a public opinion survey conducted every two years that asks a sample of American adults if they have guns at home, among other questions.

The rate has dropped in cities large and small, in suburbs and rural areas and in all regions of the country. It has fallen among households with children, and among those without. It has declined for households that say they are very happy, and for those that say they are not. It is down among churchgoers and those who never sit in pews.

The household gun ownership rate has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s, according to the survey data, analyzed by The New York Times.

In 2012, the share of American households with guns was 34 percent, according to survey results released on Thursday. Researchers said the difference compared with 2010, when the rate was 32 percent, was not statistically significant.

Additionally, it takes the Times until the twelfth paragraph to say, "measuring the level of gun ownership can be a vexing problem, with various recent national polls reporting rates between 35 percent and 52 percent. Responses can vary because the survey designs and the wording of questions differ." By the sixteenth paragraph, they finally write what the NRA has to say about this development.

Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said he was skeptical that there had been a decline in household ownership. He pointed to reports of increased gun sales, to long waits for gun safety training classes and to the growing number of background checks, which have surged since the late 1990s, as evidence that ownership is rising.

In 2011, Gallup reported that "forty-seven percent of American adults currently report that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property. This is up from 41% a year ago and is the highest Gallup has recorded since 1993, albeit marginally above the 44% and 45% highs seen during that period."

While Gallup says that the current number of homes with guns is around 43%, it's hardly a four-decade decline in ownership.  If you look at the chart, from 1996-2012, it's been roughly holding steady at 42-43%, so the decline has stagnated.

Lastly, the Times reported that women are heading more households, which has contributed to the decline.  What they forget the mention is that women are the fastest growing demographic taking up ownership of firearms, which was a development reported on by ABC News earlier this month - and by CBS News in 2011.  What's more embarrassing is that the New York Times reported in February of 2013 that the "Rising Voice of Gun Ownership is Female."

The country's changing demographics may also play a role. While the rate of gun ownership among women has remained relatively constant over the years at about 10 percent, which is less than one-third of the rate among men today, more women are heading households without men, another possible contributor to the decline in household gun ownership. Women living in households where there were guns that were not their own declined to a fifth in 2012 down from a third in 1980.

So, it seems the New York Times is trying to pigeonhole women as the more docile group, who view guns as anathema to society, which contributed to a "decline" in gun ownership.  It looks like this is demonstrably wrong, and that staff writers seldom look through their own archives before posting erroneous stories about gun ownership in the hopes of building new momentum for the president's crumbling gun control agenda.