Friday, December 21, 2012

More on firearms in the United States.

This is an addition to my previous post on firearms.

The industries producing long guns and hand guns and their ammunition had a military market in the United States. They also had an international market. It has been estimated that there are 300 million guns in civilian hands, so they clearly found a domestic civilian market. I quote from a 2005 study based on a telephone survey:
Thirty-nine percent of households and 28% of individuals reported owning at least one firearm. The majority of firearm owners own more than one firearm, with 60% owning three or more. Over 50% of firearm owners own both a handgun and long gun, but long guns represent 62% of the privately held gun stock. Men more frequently reported firearm ownership, with 45% stating they personally owned at least one firearm, compared to 11% for women. Respondents who had served in the military or had grown up with a firearm in their home were significantly more likely than those who had not to report owning a firearm. The most common reason for owning a handgun was self-defense. Long guns were primarily owned for hunting and sport shooting. Conclusions: Firearm ownership is widespread in the United States with over 60 million adults owning at least one firearm. Among firearm owners, however, ownership appears to be concentrated with 20% of firearm owners owning more than 60% of the firearms.

A market of that size clearly attracted the American advertising industry, and one can assume that gun advertising also influenced the American myths about guns. Think of the Ted Williams Model 200 Sears & Roebuck 12 guage shotgun sold at the height of the baseball player's fame, and marketed via the national catalog and the Sears stores. We also have gun shows and a national wholesale and retail distribution system for civilian firearms. There are firearms museums and collectors, again contributing to a public view that guns are interesting, worth owning.

One element of the gun culture is that there is a strong market in used guns. They are indeed "consumer durables". Thus one can buy guns and not lose too much of their value if one resells that gun later.

The U.S. military during all of the 20th century sought to stimulate civilian marksmanship. I suppose that the idea was something like that of that in Medieval England in which yeomen were required to practice their skills with the longbow. A population that used guns expertly would perhaps be more effective in the soldiers it produced. Sargent York, the backwoods marksman who became the most decorated soldier of World War I, not only demonstrated the value of marksmanship but provided great publicity for the military when it was much desired. In any case, the army sponsored rifle and pistol competitions and encouraged soldiers to enter international competitions.

All of this led to wide spread gun ownership, especially among men who can easily afford what is a fairly significant cost. One wonders, however, how many of the men who buy handguns for "self defense" really understand what they are doing. Do they know how dangerous it is to confront an armed criminal with a firearm? Do they realize what it would feel like for a normal person to kill another person "close up and personal" with a hand gun?

Fortunately, there are relatively few assault weapons in the United States. Here is one estimate:
A November 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that, as of 2009, there were approximately 310 million firearms in the United States: “114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.” However, author William J. Krouse went on to note that “data are not available on the number of ‘assault weapons’ in private possession or available for sale, but one study estimated that 1.5 million assault weapons were privately owned in 1994.”
Even if that number has increased in the last couple of decades, it should be possible to control their number and distribution.

1 comment:

John Daly said...

"What gun manufacturers have done to rejuvenate their markets, Diaz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, is to emphasize military-derived semi-automatic guns and, in marketing, 'appeal to the inner soldier, the insurrectionist feelings and high-tech desires to market these military-style guns.'"

Assault-Style Weapons In The Civilian Market