Sunday, June 24, 2018

Small Arms Survey Shows U.S. with 40% of Firearms

Image from Small Arms Review

According to the Small Arms Survey, world wide private firearms ownership has increased from about 650 million in 2006 to 857 million at the end of 2017. That is a 32% increase over the eleven year period, or 207 million firearms. The estimate for the United States increased from 270 million in to 393.3 million, a 46 percent increase or 123.3 million firearms, over the same period. The United States accounted for 60 percent of the total global increase.

Uncertainty about any firearms data requires systematic estimation that relies on a broad spectrum of sources and makes approximation unavoidable. The Small Arms Survey’s estimates of civilian firearms holdings use data gathered from multiple sources. However, with much of civilian ownership concealed or hard to identify, gun ownership numbers can only approximate reality. Using data from several different sources, at the end of 2017 there were approximately 857 million civilian-held firearms in the world’s 230 countries and territories. Civilian firearms registration data was available for 133 countries and territories. Survey results were used to help establish total gun civilian holdings in 56 countries. The new figure is 32 percent higher than the previous estimate from 2006, when the Small Arms Survey estimated there were approximately 650 million civilian-held firearms. Virtually all countries show higher numbers, although national ownership rates vary widely, reflecting factors such as national legislation, a country’s gun culture, historical and other factors. While some of the increase reflects improved data and research methods, much is due to actual growth of civilian ownership.
While the United States accounted for 60 percent of the total global increase, nearly all countries experienced an increase in firearms ownership. The United States was estimated to have 41.5% of privately owned firearms in the world in 2006.  At the end of 2017, the Small Arms Survey estimated the U.S.A. had 46% of privately owned firearms in the world.

My estimation of the private firearms stock in the United States is a bit higher than that of the Small Arms Survey. I use the method first used by Newton and Zimring, then by Gary Kleck in "Point Blank"

Using that method, there were 295 million private firearms in the United States in 2006. The Small Arms Survey estimates 270 million, or 92% of my calculated figure. At the end of 2017, using Kleck's methodology, there would be 418 million firearms (2017 numbers estimated from NICS checks).  The Small Arms Survey estamate is now 94% of what I calculated.

The BATFE numbers, plus the estimation for 2017 from NICS, shows an increase of 123 million firearms added to the private stock over the period. The Small Arms Survey shows 123.3 million added over the same period, virtually an identical increase. Thus, the only difference is in the estimation of the private stock in 2006.

Firearm numbers increase with increasing prosperity. Firearms are a highly desired manufactured good. It is unexceptional that as societies become more prosperous, the number of private firearms increases.

No one knows how many guns are added to the stock by manufacture by individuals, either as hobbyists or for the unregulated market, or in small, unregulated shops. Such guns can make up a significant number. At one point, 20% of the guns confiscated in Washington, D.C., were of this type.

No one knows how many guns are removed from the private stock by destruction, wear, and loss. A gun lost in a body of water usually becomes inoperable. Some guns are buried and forgotten. Guns are extremely durable items, capable of lasting for hundreds of years.

Very few guns are worn out by firing. Only a tiny number of firearm owners shoot more than a few hundred rounds of ammunition per gun per year.  There are likely 80-100 million .22 rimfire firearms in the United States. The total .22 rimfire production and importation of ammunition is about 5 billion rounds per year, or an average of 63 rounds per firearm, for the least expensive cartridge. Many hobbyist shoot far more, but the vast majority do not. Enthusiasts who shoot more often divide their shooting between multiple guns, and rigorously care for them.

Unregulated importation and exports are unknown. Guns that originally were procured by the U.S. military, which then are transfered to private citizens, are not counted as additions in the BATFE totals.

As all these numbers are unknown, they are assumed to cancel each other out.

The estimation is exactly that, an estimation.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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