This week we took our first look at a new survey that offers insight into some of the most hotly debated questions around guns.
The National Firearms Survey, conducted by a Georgetown professor, has gotten little attention up to this point. But it’s the largest-ever survey of gun owners in America with more than 16,000 respondents across all 50 states. It provides new evidence for how widespread gun ownership is, how popular some of the most controversial firearms are, how common gun carry is, and how often Americans claim to use firearms for self-defense.
I talk to the author of the survey and Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman takes a look at how the new date affects the fight over AR-15s and ammunition magazines.
Smith & Wesson also reported huge declines in gun sales and profitability this week. It’s another sign the market is cooling off after running extremely hot for the past two years.
The federal courts saw a lot of action too. A coalition of gun groups challenged California’s onerous new gun litigation law. Another group filed five new challenges to “assault weapons” bans across the country. And I take a look at how those bans were already struggling in the post-Bruen landscape in a member-exclusive analysis piece.
Plus, Gunmaker Match organizer Rob Pincus joins the podcast to update everyone on how the new “ghost gun” kit ban is working out in practice.
A survey of 16,708 gun owners provides updated answers to some of the most pressing questions surrounding guns in America.
The National Firearms Survey, conducted in 2021 and updated earlier this year, examines the breadth of gun ownership and the use of guns throughout the country. It found more minorities and women own guns than previous surveys indicated, half of gun owners report carrying a handgun for self-defense, and nearly a third report having used a firearm to defend themselves–a number that translates to over 1.6 million defensive uses per year. William English, the Georgetown University professor who created the survey, told The Reload it is the most comprehensive look at American gun ownership yet produced.
“The biggest difference between the results of this survey and many earlier ones is that this survey goes into greater depth regarding types of firearms owned, the details of defensive gun uses, and frequency of defensive carry of handguns,” Professor English said. “This survey is also the largest survey of gun owners ever conducted, providing more statistical power than earlier surveys and much more information about the demographics of gun ownership and use. Its results are largely consistent with other recent survey work when it comes to general ownership estimates, which increases the confidence in its accuracy, but it goes into greater depth with regard to many details of interest.”
Are AR-15s and magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition examples of arms “in common use for lawful purposes” and, therefore, protected by the Second Amendment? Or do they represent “dangerous and unusual weapons” that can be banned by governments?
New data gleaned from the largest-ever survey of gun owners is more evidence the former is true.
The National Firearms Survey, conducted in 2021 by Georgetown professor William English and updated earlier this year, queried 16,708 gun owners across all 50 states to find out, among other things, just how much AR-15s and so-called high-capacity magazines have permeated the civilian market.
The survey found that “30.2% of gun owners, about 24.6 million people, indicated that they have owned an AR-15 or similarly styled rifle.” It then asked how many of those rifles each respondent owned, finding an average of 1.8 rifles per reported owner, with the median owner having owned just one.
“This suggests that up to 44 million AR-15 styled rifles have been owned by U.S. gun owners,” English wrote.
Respondents were also asked for what purpose they owned an AR-15, with nearly two-thirds of owners citing home defense and recreational target shooting—the two most commonly cited reasons.
As for ammo magazines, 48.0% of gun owners said they’ve owned one that holds more than ten rounds. That suggests that roughly 39 million adults in the U.S. over the age of 18 have owned a “high-capacity” magazine, according to English. He estimates that U.S. gun owners have owned up to 269 million handgun magazines that hold over 10 rounds, and up to 273 million of such rifle magazines. As with ARs, home defense and recreational target shooting were again the two most common reasons indicated for owning the magazines.
The survey data provides fresh insight into the central question at issue in the debate over the legality of “assault weapons” bans and magazine capacity limits.
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Smith & Wesson’s Sales Collapse
By Stephen Gutowski
America’s largest gun maker saw a 69 percent decline in sales year over year.
That’s according to Smith & Wesson’s financial statements for its last quarter ending in July, which were published on Thursday. Sales fell from $274.6 million in the first quarter of 2021 to $84.4 million in 2022, a drop of over $190.2 million. Profits came down from $129 million to $31 million over the same period.
Gun Groups Ask Federal Court to Block California’s Onerous Litigation Law
By Stephen Gutowski
An attempt by California lawmakers to limit challenges to their gun laws is now being… challenged in court.
A coalition of gun-rights groups asked a federal court to block Section 2 of SB-1327, a new state law that imposes the cost of litigation on those who challenge gun restrictions in more cases, before it goes into effect at the beginning of next year. The law allows state government officials to seek legal fees from plaintiffs if they are unsuccessful on any of their claims. It creates a situation where plaintiffs may have to pay the state’s legal fees even if a court agrees to strike down the law they challenged.
“The California Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom may think they can ride roughshod over the Constitution,” Alan Gottlieb, Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) founder, said in a statement, “but they really can’t, and we’re hoping the court quickly erases any doubt.”
The floodgates have opened up for new “assault weapon” and magazine ban legal challenges.
The litigation arm of the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) filed five separate lawsuits in multiple federal district courts on Wednesday. The suits all take aim at ‘assault weapon’ bans and ammunition magazine size limits passed at both the state and local levels spanning the country from Hawaii to Massachusetts.
“With the decision handed down in Bruen, laws like these will now need to find their justification in the history, text, and tradition of the Second Amendment,” the group noted on its website. “These laws and ordinances ban firearms that are in common use throughout the United States in violation of the rule set forth in Heller.”
This week we’re looking at the practical impact of President Joe Biden’s “ghost gun” kit ban. The ban went into effect just a few days ago. So, it’s a good time to check in and assess the fallout.
That’s why we’ve brought Rob Picus on the show. Rob is one of the key organizers behind the gunmakers match, a shooting competition for people who build their own firearms. He has become engrained in the homebuilding community.
Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I discuss how California and New York are pushing back against the Supreme Court’s gun-carry ruling.
You can listen to the show on your favorite podcasting app or by clicking here. You can also watch the entire episode on our YouTube channel. As always, the show goes public on Monday. Members get access on Sunday AND the opportunity to appear on the show for a member segment!
Analysis: AR-15 Bans Are Floundering in Court [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski
This week, the courts cast more doubt on the constitutionality of “assault weapons” bans.
Hot on the heels of a bit of a resurgence in the political prospects of the bans, culminating in the House of Representatives passing the first one in decades, their legal prospects took a nosedive. On Tuesday, a Biden appointee blocked Boulder County, Colorado’s ban on AR-15s and similar rifles. That came shortly after an Obama appointee did the same to Superior, Colorado’s ban.
Both federal judges cited the Supreme Court’s new Bruen standard, which requires gun laws to be rooted in early American tradition to survive scrutiny, as the basis for their rulings.
Outside The Reload
That’s it for this week in guns.
I’ll see you all next week.