Newsletter: New High-Quality Data on Gun Ownership in America

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 woman examines a handgun at a display during the 2022 NRA Great American Outdoor Show
A woman examines a handgun at a display during the 2022 NRA Great American Outdoor Show / Stephen Gutowski

Largest-Ever Survey of Gun Owners Finds Diversity Increasing, Carrying Common, and More Than 1.6 Million Defensive Uses Per Year
By Stephen Gutowski

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.”

Click here to read more.

AR-15s on display at a booth during the 2022 NRA Great American Outdoor Show
AR-15s on display at a booth during the 2022 NRA Great American Outdoor Show / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Survey Data Shows the ‘Common Use’ of AR-15s, Magazines [Member Exclusive]
By Jake Fogleman

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.

If you’re a Reload Member, click here to read the whole thing. If not, join today to get exclusive access and a whole lot more!

A sign at the Smith & Wesson booth during SHOT Show 2022
A sign at the Smith & Wesson booth during SHOT Show 2022 / Stephen Gutowski

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.

Click here to read more.

The sun creates a halo around the Authority of Law statue at the Supreme Court
The sun creates a halo around the Authority of Law statue at the Supreme Court / Stephen Gutowski

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.”

Click here to continue reading.

A rifle display at the 2022 NRA Annual Meeting
A rifle display at the 2022 NRA Annual Meeting / Stephen Gutowski

Gun-Rights Group Files Five New Lawsuits Against ‘Assault Weapon,’ Magazine Bans
By Jake Fogleman

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.

Click here to read the full story.

Podcast: Gun Makers Match Organizer Rob Pincus Updates Us on the ‘Ghost Gun’ Kit Ban
By Stephen Gutowski

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!

A display of Smith & Wesson AR-15s at the 2022 NRA Great American Outdoor Show
A display of Smith & Wesson AR-15s at the 2022 NRA Great American Outdoor Show / Stephen Gutowski

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.

If you’re already a member, click here to read the rest. If not, consider joining today for exclusive access!

Outside The Reload

EXCLUSIVE: The FBI Secretly Pressured Americans To Waive Away Their Gun Rights | The Daily Caller | By Gabe Kaminsky

New push in NY to force gunmakers to adopt microstamping | ABC News | By Marina Villeneuve and Maysoon Khan

How New York’s new social media requirements for gun permits work and possible challenges ahead | PBS News Hour | By Kenichi Serino and Justin Stabley

Four years later, voter-approved WA gun law hasn’t been implemented | Crosscut | By Joseph O’Sullivan

Baltimore police arrest ‘good guy with the gun’ who stopped armed attacker | Washington Times | By Valerie Richardson and Matt Delaney

Ghost-Gun Firms Find New Ways to Sell DIY Weapons as U.S. Rule Takes Effect | Wall Street Journal | By Zusha Elinson 

That’s it for this week in guns.

If you want to hear expert analysis of these stories and more, make sure you grab a Reload membership to get our exclusive analysis newsletter every Sunday!

I’ll see you all next week.

Stephen Gutowski
The Reload

Join For Sober, Serious Firearms Reporting & Analysis

Free Weekly Newsletter

Get the most important gun news

Reload Membership

$ 10 a Month
  • Weekly News & Analysis Newsletters
  • Access to Exclusive Posts
  • Early Access to the Podcast
  • Commenting Privileges
  • Exclusive Question & Answer Sessions

Reload Membership

$ 100 a Year
  • Two Months Free
  • Weekly News & Analysis Newsletter
  • Access to Exclusive Posts
  • Early Access to the Podcast
  • Commenting Privileges
  • Exclusive Question & Answer Sessions
Best Deal
Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Comments From Reload Members

Leave a Reply


Get your copy of our FREE weekly newsletter!