You’re going to be hearing a lot about a new gun study regarding gun ownership in the United States, if you haven’t already, because it has anti-gun advocates excitedly pointing to it as proof that gun ownership isn’t as widespread as originally thought.
This story from the Federalist says the inflammatory results of a telephone poll conducted by Harvard/Northeastern have so far been reported by NPR, Time magazine, Slate, The Guardian, The Trace and Mic.
This story from theguardian.com says “the unpublished Harvard/Northeastern survey result summary” was “obtained exclusively by the Guardian” and billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun news outlet, The Trace.
Here’s the big bullet point: according to the study, half of America’s roughly 350 million firearms are owned by just 3 percent of the population.
“That excites progressives because it must mean that their radical anti-gun public policy agenda—it’s dramatic, multi-decade failure to be enacted notwithstanding—is way more popular than the Second Amendment,” despite months and months of record-breaking gun sales.
The Federalist piece goes on to say why those numbers are almost certainly bogus:
“Gun owners lie to pollsters. All the time. Often in extremely creative ways. People who actually know gun owners know this. Sure, some people who own guns might be honest with the random stranger claiming to be a pollster who wants to know precisely how many guns these people own. But there’s a pretty good chance that a huge chunk of gun owners will never in a million years be honest with the guy on the phone asking how many guns they own. There are a number of reasons for this.”
The story goes on to say that gun owners are likely to not be forthcoming in such situations because:
guns are expensive items highly coveted by thieves and violent criminals
gun owners are constantly on the lookout for politicians who want to take their guns.
“It turns out that when you constantly tell people you’d love to come and take their guns away—actually, that you’d love to force other people to come and take your guns away…those gun owners tend to believe you. And when they believe you’re serious about trying to take their guns, the last thing they’re going to do is help someone build a nice list of every address where guns might be found. Registration, after all, is the first step towards confiscation.”
The story goes on to use the recent mandatory gun registration passed in Connecticut as an example. The compliance rate for those required by law to show up and register their guns in the state was about 15 percent.
“So if only 15 percent of gun owners are going to comply with an actual registration law that carries penalties, what percentage do you think will be honest with a random caller on the telephone?” the story asks.
Good question. Probably about 3 percent.
As for digging into the survey to see how they came up with those numbers, the story says that data isn’t available, and won’t be for some time.
“The full results of the Harvard/Northeastern gun ownership study are undergoing peer review and are slated to be published in the autumn of 2017 by the Russell Sage Foundation. While the full peer review is not complete, Azrael said, the current results have gone through an initial round of comments and revisions from a group of leading firearms researchers.”
The Federalist story points out that Harvard/Northeastern had no problem leaking its topline results to major global news organizations, long before revisions or peer reviews have been completed. It also asks why it will take more than a year to review a simple poll.