Guns: Who Owns? Who's Buying? April 2018
The topic of guns has media focus once again. Following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting on 14 February 2018—and unlike following previous mass shootings—"Consumers and business are stepping in where the government has cowered," writes Dahlia Lithwick of Slate Magazine in her 28 February coverage of the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. "These teens have—by most objective measures—used social media to change the conversation around guns and gun control in America" (#NeverAgain). The time may be ripe for the conversation to change. Two-thirds of Americans now support gun control, finds a Quinnipiac University national poll on 20 February 2018. The list of companies responding to the call for action is growing. Delta Airlines, Hertz, Walmart, Fred Meyer, REI Outfitters, MetLife, and Dick's Sporting Goods are early responders. Some companies have increased the minimum age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21; others have stopped selling assault weapons in their stores or selling or discounting products and services to National Rifle Association (NRA) members or people and organizations with NRA ties.
Overall, gun-manufacturer sales are in decline. However, the percent of US adults who legally own guns is increasing. Between fall 2000 and spring 2017, the number of adults who own at least one firearm—handgun, rifle, or shotgun—increased by 15.7 million. VALS data from our national data partner GfK MRI show that in fall 2000, 14% of individuals owned a firearm (27.8 million); by spring 2017, 18% of US adults (43.5 million individuals) were gun owners.
Historically, Makers has been the consumer group most likely to own a firearm. However, the year 2017 has more Achievers and Thinkers owners than Makers owners. Although Makers are more than twice as likely as all gun owners to hunt with a rifle or shotgun in the past 12 months, Experiencers, Achievers, and Strivers (in rank order) are more likely than all gun owners to hunt with a handgun. It's important to note that Experiencers (77%) and Strivers (48%) are younger than age 30; they have grown up in an era of increasing gun violence and cyberbullying. At the same time, public-school education—with few exceptions—has been stripped of arts programs, civics courses, and extracurricular activities such as debate societies; Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is an exception. As a result, these student activists are articulate and poised in the spotlight.
More men than women own firearms. However, in 2017 more Believers women (64%) than men (36%) bought a firearm in the past year; Achievers women (42%) were also more likely than average to have made a firearm purchase. Believers are considerably below average for hunting, suggesting that gun ownership is for personal protection. Thinkers are also below average for hunting. Although the majority of Thinkers live in secure suburban neighborhoods, they may be among households frequently targeted by vandals; gun ownership is most likely about physical safety in the event of robbery. Innovators are below average for hunting but above average (as are Makers) for target shooting—proficiency is important to Innovators. For Makers, target shooting is an enjoyable hobby that provides an opportunity to gain skill with and mastery of guns.
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