Are guns more available than they used to be?
January 26, 2006 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find out information about gun availability. I recently heard that handguns are no more available than they ever have been, but that doesn't seem right. I found some stats on the Department of Justice site, but these stats don't exactly cover what I'm looking for. It seems to me that over time, there would of course be more guns available, since guns don't stop working and more are always being made. Unless guns are destroyed, it seems the numbers are always going to rise.
posted by abbyladybug to Society & Culture (20 answers total)
I'mnot entirely sure what you are looking for, but, guns certainly DO break. Everything goes through wear and tear. Searh google for "gun repair".
posted by Bucket o' Heads at 5:39 PM on January 26, 2006

Yeah, guns do stop working -- very quickly, actually, if you don't take care of them.
posted by JekPorkins at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2006

By available, do you mean for sale? Legally or illegally? Gun people tend to accumulate guns, so the ratio of people per gun may change, but some guy with 200 guns can still only fire one at a time (or two if he's a John Woo fan).
posted by 445supermag at 5:55 PM on January 26, 2006

I'm to lazy to look up the statistics to prove my point - but I'm positive more guns are are being produced in this country then are being taken off the streets or that are breaking. How else would Smith & Weston keep posting a profit each quarter?
posted by meta x zen at 6:14 PM on January 26, 2006

How could anyone possibly collect statistics on how many guns per year are "breaking?" And how broken would it have to be before it counts as "broken?"
posted by JekPorkins at 6:16 PM on January 26, 2006

Do you mean more guns available to fire? or available to buy?
posted by crabintheocean at 6:31 PM on January 26, 2006

Do you mean the ease of buying a gun? Obviously the rules on this have only gotten stricter than in the past. (i.e., you used to be able to mail-order shotguns from the Sears catalog, etc..)
posted by reverendX at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2006

Unless guns are destroyed, it seems the numbers are always going to rise.

Handguns have been around for more than long enough that the oldest ones are almost all broken, destroyed, buried, melted down for scrap, lost at sea, or locked up in museums by now. Or they're otherwise out of regular use. This has been the case for long enough that if per capita manufacture of handguns, as well as the ownership rate of handguns, were constant, then their general popularity could, other things being equal, be estimated as about constant. The "numbers" as they apply to the general availability of guns would increase only while per-capita manufacture (and import) is rising, or demand is falling (people selling off guns they no longer need), or the lifetime of the guns is increasing. Or, I suppose, the average lifespan of the gun owners decreasing as they shoot each other, but that's just one of the reasons you need to think about this in "per capita" terms.
posted by sfenders at 6:44 PM on January 26, 2006

Of course, I should have meant to say "firearms" or something, not "handguns." And people selling guns would obviously be rising supply, not falling demand (which would be people less willing to buy them.) Ah well.
posted by sfenders at 6:50 PM on January 26, 2006

Also, the police seize about every gun they ever come across. They destroy plenty of them just because they are illegal, in addition to the few that become "evidence."
posted by MrZero at 7:07 PM on January 26, 2006

Response by poster: So far, noone has posted stats, and I guess that's because they are hard to come across, because how would you know if a gun that had been bought was still in use or available.

Would it be easier for a person to buy a gun now (legally or illegally) than it was 20 years ago? I was told that guns aren't more available, but teenagers are more likely to pull the trigger than they used to be. I was wondering if there was any hard data about this.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:30 PM on January 26, 2006

Guns are surprisingly fragile. Get some sweat on one and leave it alone for a whle. Presto, a no longer functioning gun.
posted by oddman at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2006

but teenagers are more likely to pull the trigger than they used to be.

Teenagers are more likely to do just about anything now than they were before, except exercise restraint.

But back to guns... I have found them to be far less easy to acquire than before, particularly as compared to 20 years ago.

Guns degrade, are confiscated and destroyed, are "bought-back" in buy-back programs, and otherwise stop functioning. They are used in wars, where they are destroyed at an amazing clip (ha!). They are acquired by collectors and museums whose collections continue to grow. They are lost in fires, dropped in lakes and rivers, and fouled beyond use for a variety of reasons. They are broken down for parts to fix other guns that need repair.
posted by mumeishi at 7:54 PM on January 26, 2006

The most basic statistic, the "gun ownership rate" shouldn't be much harder to do than any other statistical measure of a large population, but I can't find any good data on the web. Your best bet might be to call up someone at the NRA and ask about it.
posted by sfenders at 7:59 PM on January 26, 2006

wow, i don't know what kind of gun you have, oddman, but i wish i did so i could avoid buying it. seriously, sweat?
posted by crabintheocean at 8:28 PM on January 26, 2006

Guns are harder to buy these days. Buying from a gun store entails a background check. You can buy private party with no check (in most states) but many newspapers won't take gun classifieds anymore. So how do you find out about guns for sale? Internet or knowing the right kind of people.

As noted guns do wear out or break over time. Also, as a gun gets older it can become more valuable and people are less likely to use it, even it is still fully functional. These types of guns end up in collections, private or museum. It's not uncommon for a private collector to have hundreds of guns.
posted by 6550 at 10:53 PM on January 26, 2006

Crabintheocean - Any metal gun is going to rust when you get skin oil on it. That's why proper gun care includes keeping the gun oiled regularly and cleaning it, and why the grips are typically not made of metal.

As far as Smith & Wesson's profits, you think the only thing they make are guns for private owners? That's shortsighted, and pretty stupid. They also participate in large government research projects and make a decent profit margin off of your tax dollars, they supply arms to overseas countries, they supply consumables such as gun oil and parts, including custom parts for competition shooters, etc. etc. etc.

I rarely think AxMe questions are stupid, but this one is so poorly thought out that it's almost a troll designed to spark a war between gun people and non-gun people. :-p
posted by SpecialK at 11:12 PM on January 26, 2006

Guns are only harder to buy if you are law-abiding. Criminal acquisition is easier to constant.
posted by Mick at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2006

You'll find out more than you wanted to know by investigating the controversy over John Lott and his historical research (or not) into gun ownership.
posted by dhartung at 7:51 PM on January 27, 2006

I just bought a my first firearm. I'm in Washington state. There was a 5 minute FBI background check on the computer, and that was all. I was surprised.

Handguns, however, I believe have much more strict background checks, but I don't know.

And SpecialK, I tend to agree with you about this quesiton. It was confusing when I read it. I didn't understand the question but I certainly felt like I understood the posters view on firearm ownership.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2007

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