There’s a new report out about how many legal firearms may actually exist in the United States, and it’ll blow your mind.
You typically hear the number 300 million from across the country. As the Weapons Man blog points out, that number has been stated for years. How is it that the number hasn’t grown? Everyone tries to estimate the number of gun owners at between 80 and 90 million as well, but none of these numbers are truly accurate because, thankfully, there is no gun registration on a federal level.
What Weapons Man did was try to figure out the real number of firearms using publicly available data from actual manufacturers and FFL dealers (federally licensed firearms dealers).
What if we told you that one ATF computer system logged, by serial number, 252,000,000 unique firearms, and represented only those firearms manufactured, imported or sold by a relatively small number of the nation’s tens of thousands of Federal Firearms Licensees?
ATF maintains a system, introduced in 1999, called Access 2000 or A2K (GAO report; details are in the .pdfs linked at that .html link). This system allows voluntarily participating manufacturers, importers and wholesalers (no retailers) to enter their firearms by the identifying data that goes on a 4473 directly into an ATF computer.
None of the current academic media and academic estimates were developed with A2K data, even though this data has been made publicly available. You’re probably reading about it here for the first time.
The participants in A2K include, as of fall, 2015, 35 firms representing 66 FFLs total.
As of 2 October, 2015, the data in A2K included 252,433,229 records, representing one firearm each. That means that at least those 250 million firearms have been manufactured, or imported, or sold at wholesale in approximately 15 years.
And remember, this is not all of them. These participants have chosen to use this database. It is not mandatory. So there are many others who are not using this database. Weapons Man figures that data out as well:
Now, the question of estimating how many guns exist in the United States can be restated as a single question: what percentage of all the guns in the country were handled by these 35 firms / 66 FFLs in the period 1999-2015?
Applying the Pareto Principle, it is possible, probable even, that a small percentage of high volume manufacturers and jobbers produce the largest percentage of the nation’s new firearms. Selecting 80/20 as a rule, which seems improbably generous over the lifespan of A2K, during this period these 66 FFLs produced 80% of all firearms traffic. Thus, the 252 million is 80% of 315 million new-to-the-market firearms.
At this point we have a reasonable and very conservative, very low estimate of 329 million new firearms to the US market 1999-2016. The question becomes one of estimating how many firearms were made and imported in the period from the invention of modern metallic cartridge, smokeless powder ammunition from, say, 1899 to 1998 — and how many of those survive as practical, usable firearms.
Absent a better idea, we can say that the US inventory of firearms is almost certainly between412 and 660 million, not the lower numbers recently trumpeted in the media.
You really should read the full report to get all the dirty details behind the statements and numbers. If you’re a numbers geek, you’ll love it. And it makes sense because they continue to use the same numbers over and over yet they never seem to grow. You’d think they’d grow since we know the number of gun owners is growing based on personal experience.
The left likes to claim that gun ownership isn’t growing, but how is that possible? You can probably all point to at least one new gun owner you know from at least the past eight years. Existing gun owners certainly aren’t going to be giving up their 2A card any time soon, so how can the number not be growing?
What’s interesting is it’s all math and stats based on incomplete data. But it’s a good thing, because neither the public nor the government should have that information.
Finally, Jenn Jacques from Bearing Arms posted a great new meme that will absolutely make gun controllers’ heads spin: