OSD 62: People like guns more than grandpa did

Can't stop the signal.

The Trace wrote this week about a new report on US gun ownership trends from 1980 to 2016. The data shows an apparent decline in the percentage of people who own guns, with an increase in guns per owner. The Trace sums it up like this:

The new estimates fill in the details of a trend whose contours were already known: The prevalence of firearm ownership has declined in virtually every state over the past several decades. Most states exhibit strikingly similar trends, with ownership rates beginning to fall steadily in the early 1990s before plateauing in the mid-2000s, followed in some places by a modest rebound.

But it turns out that last half-sentence — “followed in some places by a modest rebound” — is doing a lot more work than the summary is letting on. Let’s look at the actual graphs:

We see in most cases a significant downward trend from the mid-‘80s through the late-‘00s. And then we see something strange: that trend completely arrested. Diving into the data, it turns out that only eight states have lost more than an additional 1% in the past ~12 years: California, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Washington. And in most of those cases, the slope flattened dramatically. Only California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington have retained a significant downward trend.

Over the past decade-plus, 25 of the other 46 states have established an upward trend. And the remaining 20 are flat (+/- 100 basis points), having stopped any previous trend.

This coincides with a number of things, but we’d call out the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban (and that making it clear what was at stake if another ban came down the pike), a number of significant (and competing) political movements in that period, the massive expansion of concealed carry, and one more thing: the invention of smartphones and YouTube and Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve written about how simply making people familiar with guns spreads gun rights, the internet is the most powerful tool ever invented for spreading information, and therefore the internet spreads gun rights. We’ve also written about how the data shows that in a lot of ways, gun rights are winning and nobody has realized it.

So, perhaps unintentionally, this new Trace report reinforces that case. If you cut the data off 10-15 years ago, you’d see a story of two decades of secular decline in gun ownership. But for what is now rapidly approaching a full generation, things have changed — and for the first time in as far back as the data goes, gun culture has actually been growing for more than a decade now. Plus, because of how culture works, this sort of growth is probably exponential. Think about what these graphs will look like in 2030.

Now that’s a story.

This week’s links

“The Reality of American Violence”

This excellent piece is a data-driven look at the axiom that drives the entire gun debate: that guns cause violence. Here’s the intro:

There is a powerful and pervasive narrative about violence in America that goes something like this:

The United States has lots of guns, permissive gun laws, and lots of gun violence. Other countries have fewer guns, more restrictive gun laws, and far less gun violence. Therefore, if the United States wants to achieve lower levels of violence, it should enact stringent gun control policies.

It’s easy to see how this simple, straightforward narrative could be compelling. But it’s wrong. A more thorough examination of the narrative reveals it to be simplistic rather than simple.

If we study American violence more closely, we cannot escape two conclusions: 1) The connection between American violence and guns/gun policy is tenuous and superficial. 2) The fundamental sociological drivers of American violence are complex, poorly understood, and deserving of the scrutiny that has instead been diverted to guns.

Let us consider a few basic facts about American violence that will help us to arrive at those conclusions.

Freedom Week 2.0, a.k.a. Freedom 24 Hours

This blew up the gun internet from Thursday through Saturday. The NSSF has a clean summary of what happened, the tldr of which is:

  • On Thursday, Judge Roger Benitez granted the CRPA’s request to pause California’s ammo background check law while a lawsuit to permanently strike down the law plays out.

  • Californians flooded online ammo stores to order ammo.

  • On Friday morning, Judge Benitez rejected California’s request to pause his pause, allowing the ammo flood to continue.

  • On Friday night, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted California’s appeal of Benitez’s pause, by pausing his pause. This stopped the flood of online ammo orders, and the Court will now review the situation to decide whether to make the pause of the pause permanent, or to allow Benitez’s pause to go back into effect until the underlying lawsuit is resolved.

But for about 24 hours this week, California ammo laws were the same as they are in nearly every other state.

The remarkably modern-sounding debate around New York’s gun control law from 1911

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Waco is in the top ten shows on Netflix

Six highly bingeable episodes about the people behind the standoff and how the ATF and FBI ran this attempt to enforce federal gun control laws.

Pew Pew Tactical’s Eric Hung and the USCCA on the new age of American gun ownership

Good freeform chat. And we strongly recommend sharing Pew Pew Tactical with any newbies that are onboarding.

How to build an audience

“Over the past six years of doing marketing to build @trexarms, I will wholeheartedly say that free education is the most effective marketing. Keep in mind; it needs to be aesthetically pleasing, thought-provoking, easy to understand, and be something people are wanting to learn about.”

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