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Media Misrepresentation: Guardian says Black Gun Ownership up 58.2%

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Article first appeared on Ammoland.com

U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Gun ownership is up in the United States. Record numbers of new gun owners, about eight million, purchased a gun in 2020. In a sensationalist article by the far-left British paper The Guardian, the sub-headline reads:

Americans bought a record number of firearms last year. Gun ownership among Black Americans is up 58.2%

While it may be wished to be true, the headline is both sensationalist and misleading. Here is the paragraph in the article which purports to support the headline. From the guardian.com:

Americans bought a record number of firearms last year. An estimated 5 million people bought their first ever gun between March and August, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade organization, and that number continued to climb throughout the year. Black Americans saw the highest increase in new gun owners of any demographic, the NSSF found, with gun ownership in the group up by a staggering 58.2%.

The first, obvious mischaracterization, is the sleight of hand which changes the increase in gun purchasers into an equivalent percentage increase in gun owners.

The 58.2% increase is based on reporting by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).  The report shows the number of black gun purchasers increased by 58.2% in the first half of 2020.

There is little reason to doubt the mix of customers changed much in the second half.  An increase in black customers does not translate into the same increase in black gun owners, white gun owners, Hispanic gun owners, Asian gun owners, or any group of gun owners. To put the increase in black customers in context, the NSSF reported the increases in customers of four groups:

  • Black – 58.2%
  • White – 51.9%
  • Hispanic – 49.4%
  • Asian – 42.9%

Only the four groups were listed.

The number of total gun owners in the United States is notoriously difficult to determine, as is the distribution into various groups.

Before 2020, there appeared to be about 100 million gun owners in the United States.  The number is uncertain because it is based on surveys.

The NSSF reported the percentage of total customers as this:

  • Black – 14.7%
  • White – 72.4%
  • Hispanic – 9.1%
  • Asian – 3.8%

While gun purchases in 2020 appear to have increased the number of gun owners by about 8%, it is a far cry from 58% as reported in the Guardian headline. We would have to know how gun ownership is distributed across the United States before 2020 to understand how much of a percentage increase occurred in each group.

According to a Pew survey done in 2017, about 30% of all adults personally owned a gun. Asians were not broken out. The distribution was this:

  • Black – 24%
  • White 36%
  • Hispanics 15%

Very likely, these numbers represent a minimum. It is easy to understand why people would be reluctant to admit gun ownership to a stranger on the phone.

The numbers are uncertain because Hispanics are an ethnic group that may be any race.

As the Guardian article focused on black people, consider those numbers. Black people are about 13.4% of the U.S. population.  Adult black people are about 31.5 million people in the US.

If 24% were gun owners, that would be about 7.56 million self-reported black gun owners before the increase in 2020.

The total increase in 2020 was about 8 million new gun owners. According to the NSSF, 14.7% of them were black.  That calculates to 1.176 new black gun owners. 1.176 million is about a 15.6% increase in gun ownership by black people. It is a significant increase, but not the sensational 58% mischaracterized in the headline.

Contrary to the Guardian’s selected quotes, gun owners and the NRA welcome all colors into the ranks of the gun culture.

Black people, prevented from legal gun ownership by racist gun laws in the past, have some catching up to do.

Professor John Lott has said minorities in crime-ridden urban centers derive the most benefit from increased legal gun ownership. From Dr. John Lott:

 My research has demonstrated that the two groups that benefit the most from carrying guns are the likeliest victims of crime (poor blacks in high-crime urban areas) and people who are physically weaker (women and the elderly). Dozens of published peer-reviewed studies find similar results.

It makes sense those who are at the highest risk of crimes of violence would benefit the most from being armed.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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