In January 2021, the number of firearms purchased by civilians in the US topped 2.2 million. In December of the same year, gun sales reached 1.9 million. In all, about 75 million firearms are owned by Americans. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms tracks the number of firearms and background checks in gun sales. Since 1899, a total of 360 million firearms entered the US market.
The National Institute of Justice has conducted a national survey to determine the number of firearms owned by Americans. In 1994, there were 44 million firearms owned by Americans. Of those, 65 million were handguns. In fact, 74% of gun owners reported owning more than one firearm. But what does this mean for individual gun owners? The numbers are quite startling. In 2017, Americans owned three hundred and twenty million firearms, with six million of them being registered.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the US owns a large percentage of the world’s firearms. Even though the U.S. only comprises 4% of the global population, Americans own 40 percent of all civilian-owned guns. According to the Small Arms Survey, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US is currently 393 million, making the U.S. the most-armed nation. And recent research has shown that gun ownership in the US has increased dramatically over the last few years. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 7.5 million US adults became first-time gun owners between January 2019 and April 2021.
The increase in sales of firearms has been spurred by national crises and events affecting personal safety. In the wake of the Sandy Hook and San Bernardino shootings, President Obama called for modest restrictions on firearms sales. In June, after protests in Parkland, Florida, the number of firearm sales jumped to over 180,000. Since then, it has steadily increased. And, according to the National Rifle Association, sales of firearms have increased by 700 percent.
Despite this increased number of firearm owners in the United States, gun ownership remains concentrated in American hands. According to a Gallup study, 42 percent of American households own a firearm, making the number of firearm owners in the United States 393 million. That’s nearly half of the world’s civilian guns. This number is a major problem. The American gun population, after all, is the world’s most armed nation.
Gun ownership rates vary by race and ethnicity. White men, for example, are significantly more likely to own a firearm than black men. Interestingly, white men and nonwhite men are more likely than nonwhites to own a firearm. Regardless of race, the number of firearms owned by white men is still twice as high as the rate among Hispanics. And white women are significantly less likely to own a firearm than black men or Hispanics.