The oft chanted mantra that firearms are like viruses is patently untenable. Viruses are living organisms—they replicate and perform actions independently. To consider firearms alive, self-replicating and capable of independent action requires an absence of rationality.
Now, to the public health model. It is predicated on education about, then modification and eradication, of a problem. Study should begin with examining history, epidemiology, utility, and a cost benefit ratio.
Firearms are a tool designed to allow an organism to project power against another organism. That holds whether the tool-using organism(s) is a human against a predatory animal, or a group of people against another group of people. They are especially helpful for weaker organisms confronted by stronger ones. Firearms may be used appropriately or inappropriately, but that is based upon the user, not the tool.
Firearms are widely prevalent and that holds whether society accepts them or not. That is clear when we compare disparate regulations between cities within a country, or between countries. Some examples include Chicago and Baltimore in the United States, and criminal and terrorist use of firearms in countries with very strict anti-firearm regulations such as France, Mexico and Guatemala.
Firearms do exactly what they were designed to do, and they do it effectively and efficiently. For self-defense or anti-criminal use, firearms are the quintessential tool which allows a person, regardless of strength or physical ability, to defend against an individual or a group of criminals.
Individuals and groups who wish to see firearms removed from society frequently begin by proposing modifications. None of the modifications expounded by these groups would improve the utility and cost-benefit equation, or prevent criminals and terrorists from misusing them.
That leaves eradication. Those who propose eradication fail to understand human nature. Being human drives us to develop tools for specific purposes. Humankind went from being able to walk to using animals and then machinery to accomplish transportation. We went from charcoal scratchings on rock to print and electronics to accomplish communication. We went from running to throwing rocks to launching projectiles faster and farther to firearms.
Last but not least, the public health model has worked to some degree for automobile safety, and to reduce tobacco and alcohol use. But imperfectly, because the advocates fail to understand human nature. Compulsion goes only so far. Society continues to struggling with the failure of seat-belt laws and mechanical safety devices, and the fact that people too often will not do what other people think is in their best interest. The public health model as applied to firearms issues has also been plagued by misuse of data and fraudulent science attempting to promote a predetermined end. The American people trust the Constitution of the United States more than they trust esoteric statistics.
Ultimately, the public health model fails because the proponents are ideologists, not scientists.
Vice is usually not known for their unbiased coverage or accurate gun reporting. Just look at their “Gun Control” section of their site – 11 pages of entries, with few (if any) neutral or objective segments.
Which is why I’m not going to give them the benefit of the doubt with this piece:
The gist is, “Bump stocks are legal because that’s how the law is written.” The retired ATF analyst even demonstrates how bumpfire can be achieved without a stock, and the VICE reporter quickly is able to replicate this.
The implication is clear: Congress must take action to change the laws.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more idiotic, USA Today says “hold my beer!”
Yep, 40mm grenade launchers are somehow a danger, despite their being restricted as Destructive Devices, requiring the usual ATF background check, FBI fingerprinting, $200 tax stamp, and more. And that’s just for the launcher – if you want a 40mm round, each one of those is considered a destructive device as well, if you can even find someone willing to sell you an explosive 40mm round.
You know what the penalty is for having an unregistered Destructive Device? Federal Felony charges with up to 10 years in jail & a fine of $250,000. But USA Today thinks these are just an accessory that is commonly available at any gun store.
This is why journalists covering firearms are mocked & derided relentlessly in the firearms community. Because memes like this become less satire, and more reality:
If you want to have a serious discussion about a topic, it helps if you have even a layman’s grasp of the subject matter. USA Today’s graphic is the epitome of fear mongering nonsense.
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, the usual suspects have come out in full force. This showed up on my news feed this morning:
From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
Nothing like a Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc fallacy to start things off.
From a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety. The F.B.I. counted a total of 268 “justifiable homicides” by private citizens involving firearms in 2015; that is, felons killed in the course of committing a felony. Yet that same year, there were 489 “unintentional firearms deaths” in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Between 77 and 141 of those killed were children.
And a smooth transition to cherry picking by comparing justifiable homicides to accidents. As usual, defensive gun uses that do not result in a dead criminal aren’t worthy of being counted, despite estimates of them ranging from 50,000 to 2 million a year.
From a national-security standpoint, the Amendment’s suggestion that a “well-regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” is quaint. The Minutemen that will deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are based in missile silos in Minot, N.D., not farmhouses in Lexington, Mass.
The venerable strawman appears!
From a personal liberty standpoint, the idea that an armed citizenry is the ultimate check on the ambitions and encroachments of government power is curious. The Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, the New York draft riots of 1863, the coal miners’ rebellion of 1921, the Brink’s robbery of 1981 — does any serious conservative think of these as great moments in Second Amendment activism?
Someone’s clearly never heard of the Battle of Athens.
But hey, there’s a moment of self awareness:
Given all of this, why do liberals keep losing the gun control debate?
Maybe it’s because they argue their case badly and — let’s face it — in bad faith. Democratic politicians routinely profess their fidelity to the Second Amendment — or rather, “a nuanced reading” of it — with all the conviction of Barack Obama’s support for traditional marriage, circa 2008. People recognize lip service for what it is.
Then there are the endless liberal errors of fact. There is no “gun-show loophole” per se; it’s a private-sale loophole, in other words the right to sell your own stuff. The civilian AR-15 is not a true “assault rifle,” and banning such rifles would have little effect on the overall murder rate, since most homicides are committed with handguns. It’s not true that 40 percent of gun owners buy without a background check; the real number is closer to one-fifth.
The National Rifle Association does not have Republican “balls in a money clip,” as Jimmy Kimmel put it the other night. The N.R.A. has donated a paltry $3,533,294 to all current members of Congress since 1998, according to The Washington Post, equivalent to about three months of Kimmel’s salary. The N.R.A. doesn’t need to buy influence: It’s powerful because it’s popular.
Nor will it do to follow the “Australian model” of a gun buyback program, which has shown poor results in the United States and makes little sense in a country awash with hundreds of millions of weapons. Keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill people is a sensible goal, but due process is still owed to the potentially insane. Background checks for private gun sales are another fine idea, though its effects on homicides will be negligible: guns recovered by police are rarely in the hands of their legal owners, a 2016 study found.
In fact, the more closely one looks at what passes for “common sense” gun laws, the more feckless they appear. Americans who claim to be outraged by gun crimes should want to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts. They should want to change it fundamentally and permanently.
Holy shit, this is the most honest assessment of the gun control movement I’ve seen in ages.
Too bad it doesn’t last:
There is only one way to do this: Repeal the Second Amendment.
Repealing the Amendment may seem like political Mission Impossible today, but in the era of same-sex marriage it’s worth recalling that most great causes begin as improbable ones. Gun ownership should never be outlawed, just as it isn’t outlawed in Britain or Australia. But it doesn’t need a blanket Constitutional protection, either. The 46,445 murder victims killed by gunfire in the United States between 2012 and 2016 didn’t need to perish so that gun enthusiasts can go on fantasizing that “Red Dawn” is the fate that soon awaits us.
Oh ok dude. You just spent paragraphs telling us how the gun control movement argues in bad faith and now you want to repeal the constitutional protection that prevents firearms from being banned from ownership.
Let’s also not pretend that banning & confiscation wouldn’t be immediately put on the menu. You know how I know this? Because even with the 2nd Amendment protections, gun control zealots frequently propose just that. Here’s a bill that was put forward for banning firearms in Wisconsin. Here’s another one in Missouri. Here’s one in Georgia that called for confiscation. California & New York both have already passed bills that ban firearms & do not allow for grandfathered possession, with New York using their registration database to require turning them in or destroying them – notice that the firearms referenced are .22lr rifles, deemed illegal because they have a magazine capacity greater than 5 rounds.
Let’s not pretend that allowing people to own a single shot .22LR or over & under shotgun, stored at a hunting club, isn’t effectively banning firearms ownership.
I wonder what Madison would have to say about that today, when more than twice as many Americans perished last year at the hands of their fellows as died in battle during the entire Revolutionary War. My guess: Take the guns—or at least the presumptive right to them—away. The true foundation of American exceptionalism should be our capacity for moral and constitutional renewal, not our instinct for self-destruction.
How would the the Founding Fathers feel about privately owned guns? Dude, they issued Letters of Marque to allow for privately owned warships. They had personally owned cannons. The Brown Bess rifle commonly owned by citizens was better than what was issued to the Continental Army.
Heck, even your math is bad – the population of the US during the Revolutionary war was roughly 2.5 million. Regarding casualties during the Revolutionary war:
Throughout the course of the war, an estimated 6,800 Americans were killed in action, 6,100 wounded, and upwards of 20,000 were taken prisoner. Historians believe that at least an additional 17,000 deaths were the result of disease, including about 8,000–12,000 who died while prisoners of war.
America’s population today is 330 million, or 132 times greater than in 1776. Let’s do some simple math:
6,800 war casualties times 132 = 897,600. In comparison, we had 11,004 homicides by firearm in 2016.
So what would Madison say? He’d probably tell you to go pound sand, just in less polite terms.
Silencers are in the news, with all manner of breathless fear mongering coming from various outlets. Why? The Sportsmen’s Heritage Recreational and Enhancement Act of 2017 (SHARE) passed through committee (on a straight party-line vote, naturally) and has been forwarded to the House of Representatives. Attached to it is the Hearing Protection Act, which (if successful) will remove silencers from the National Firearms Act and treat them like regular Title I firearms. Not sure what this means? Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
What’s the big deal?
If you are unfamiliar with the backstory on what silencers are & why they are restricted, David Kopel wrote an excellent article covering the history & politics of silencers. To sum up: Hiram Maxim invented the sound suppressor back in 1909 and marketed it as a “silencer.” Here in the US, they are fairly uncommon & if you don’t have the proper paperwork can send you to prison for a long time.
Wait, what? Yep, that’s right – For some reason that nobody can figure out, Congress decided to include them in the National Firearms Act of 1934, resulting in their being treated the same as machineguns, sawed off shotguns, and hand grenades. Under the NFA, a hollow tube with baffles is considered a Title II firearm & heavily restricted: owning one requires fingerprints, a background check, and a $200 tax stamp. Violations of Title II firearms laws are a federal felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine.
With all these hoops to jump through, and harsh penalties, why do people want silencers anyhow?
Despite their portray in popular media, guns are loud. A single gunshot can be up to 190dB – in comparison, thunder from a nearby storm is around 120dB. Both are enough to cause immediate, permanent hearing damage because the sound is loud enough to kill hearing tissue.
Silencers are the gun equivalent of a car’s muffler – they function by taking the exhaust gases of combustion & slowing their expansion, cooling them before they escape the muzzle. The typical silencer is not particularly complex – it can’t be, because unlike an automobile muffler, the bullet has to travel in a straight line. Crude examples can be found made from converted oil filters, or can be constructed of a simple pipe, washers & steel or copper wool, and a means to attach it to the firearms barrel. In a recent episode of The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes is shown with one made from a Maglite:
Silencers have many benefits besides the obvious noise reduction for the shooter:
- Increased situational awareness. By being able to hear what is going on around you, you are safer. You are able to communicate with others &
- Decreased firearms recoil, which means greater accuracy.
- Less noise pollution in the surrounding area, which is especially important around firing ranges. In some European nations they are considered an essential way to reduce noise pollution & are available without a hassle. Glock makes a disposable model that’s around $150 that is available in various countries.
In all likelihood, if OSHA had existed when silencers were invented, they’d be mandatory equipment today.
What caused this Silencer Showdown?
It is only in recent years that use of silencers in the American firearms community has changed, largely due to three factors: inflation, military acceptance & information sharing.
Inflation: When Maxim invented the silencer, Pistol models sold for $5, rifle versions were $7, or around $125 in 2017 dollars. The National Firearms Act added $200 to that cost, effectively banning them from anyone other than the rich – $200 in 1934 is the equivalent of $4959 in 2017. Thanks to the magic of inflation, a $200 tax stamp no longer is the hurdle it once was, and in the last decade silencer, short barrel rifle, short barrel shotgun & other NFA purchases have exploded. Let’s face it, in 1934 $200 on a $5 item was a big deal; but $200 today? That’s a monthly cell phone bill.
Military use: Silencers have been in military service since WWI, where they were issued to snipers & sharpshooters. In WWII, they were found in various capacities from the Welrod Pistol to the Deslisle Destroyer Carbine to Silenced Sten. Vietnam saw a variant of the S&W M39 called the Mk 22 “Hush Puppy” that was used by SEALs for eliminating guard dogs & sentries, along with Silenced Swedish K “K Guns” used by both Special Forces & CIA personnel.
This continued into the modern era. Well aware of the advantages that silencers provided, military units made them a requirement on weapons systems solicitations; in the mid 90s the Special Operations Peculiar MODification (SOPMOD) kit had a sound suppressor for each rifle. When the Global War on Terror ramped up, Special Operations became even more important & capabilities needed to be filled. The M110 was issued as a designated marksman’s rifle, putting silencers into the hands of riflemen.
Traditional media, Social media & word of mouth: In 2010, there had been a grand total of 285,087 silencers registered since 1934. That would soon change.
The internet allowed firearms enthusiasts to communicate from around the world. As such, those with actual experience using silencers, industry representatives & potential buyers were able join together. Information sharing via sites like AR15.com (est 1997), SilencerTalk, (created in 2006), tactical industry publications, & word of mouth allowed end users to become more educated on silencer effectiveness, how to obtain their own, or in some cases make them with ATF approval. No longer was the NFA a mystery, and a niche market was even created to simplify the process by connecting firearms lawyers with clients.
Social media further spread information, from digital photos taken by service members to companies like Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC), Surefire & Gemtech taking part in discussions. These companies leveraged their knowledge gained from servicing military & law enforcement customers into providing better quality products to both law enforcement & civilian buyers. Detailed specifications allowed comparison shopping. YouTube channels like Hickok45 featured silencer use & others explained the science behind them. Industry leading manufacturers formed the American Suppressor Association in 2014 to help educate & reform silencer laws at both the state & federal level; through their efforts it is now legal to hunt with a silencer equipped firearm in 42 states. Finally, large firearms manufacturers entered the market: Remington acquired AAC, SIG-Sauer created their own silencer division, and just this year S&W bought Gemtech.
By 2015, silencer ownership had exploded. CNN noted the drastic increase in silencer sales:
The number of registered silencers surged 38% from last year to 792,282 in February 2015, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. There were 571,750 licenses in March 2014.
Even some people at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives have changed their minds on their being restricted, stating in a whitepaper that:
[T]he reason for their inclusion in the NFA is archaic and historical reluctance to removing them from the NFA should be reevaluated.
The Free Beacon has confirmed that silencers are rarely used in crimes, with roughly 44 instances a year.
“Consistent with this low number of prosecution referrals, silencers are very rarely used in criminal shootings,” Turk wrote. “Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety necessitating [National Firearms Act] classification, and should be considered for reclassification under the [Gun Control Act].”
Even in 2014 the ATF was having a difficult time keeping up with the ever increasing demands for NFA items. Eventually they changed to a 7 day workweek and increased NFA branch personnel nearly threefold in order to try to combat growing delays. Wait times for NFA transfers continued to increase. The existing system wasn’t working, and wasn’t helped by a new Obama-era rule change called 41f that further increased paperwork to be processed – wait times were expected to double. In anticipation of the rules changes, people rushed to get their paperwork in so their purchases would be “grandfathered” – Silencerco reportedly submitted $2,000,000 worth of NFA stamp applications in a single day. If those were all silencers or machineguns, that’s 10,000 applications.
The ATF whitepaper gives an insider’s view:
The wide acceptance of silencers and corresponding changes in state laws have created substantial demand across the country. This surge in demand has caused ATF to have a significant backlog on silencer applications. ATF’s processing time is now approximately 8 months. ATF has devoted substantial resources in attempts to reduce processing times, spending over $1 million annually in overtime and temporary duty expenses, and dedicating over 33 additional full-time and contract positions since 2011 to support NFA processing.
Put it another way: by keeping silencers restricted, it’s having a negative effect on law enforcement, because administration is draining resources. That is money spent on personnel & paperwork and is not spent on criminal investigations.
Things come to a head
Enter the Hearing Protection Act of 2015, which had the objective of changing silencers from Title II weapons, to Title I & treated the same as regular firearms The HPA eventually picked up 82 cosponsors, but was not passed in the 2015-16 session. With the 2016 election under way, it was tabled; Clinton had campaigned on increasing firearms restrictions across the board, and was favored to win.
With Trump’s surprise victory & Republican control of both the Senate & House, there was an opportunity. Donald Trump Jr, an avid hunter, spearheaded efforts to reduce silencer regulations. The Hearing Protection Act was dusted off, reintroduced to the house as HPA 2017. It was then referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, followed by the House Judiciary, where it languished until June, when it was attached to the SHARE Act. SHARE already had strong bipartisan approval and incorporated a number of changes that the firearms community had been seeking for decades.
So let’s talk about the “gun safety” movement & their objections to this bill.
Naturally the possibility of silencer restrictions being eased has caused a panic in the anti-gun movement & media allies. Everytown produced a litany of fear mongering nonsense. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank panicked and vomited forth a massive amount of hyperbole including talk of howitzers & Stinger missiles (which the NRA quickly debunked). The Huffington Post claims deregulation is a ploy of the gun industry in order to combat the “Trump Slump” (which doesn’t exist, but I’ll address that in another article).
Rather than address each article, let’s talk about…
Common Myths Surrounding Silencers
Myth #1: Silencers completely eliminate the sound of a gunshot!
Despite their portrayal in movies & television, silencers do not reduce a gunshot to a kitten sneezing. In fact:
- a rifle with a silencer is still as loud as the operations deck of an aircraft carrier;
- a pistol with a silencer is as loud as a jackhammer.
Even the CEO of ShotSpotter, a system used to detect gunfire in several cities, states that the Shotspotter system can still detect firearms equipped with silencers.
“In regard to gun silencers, it is more accurate to call them suppressors, as they suppress the impulsive sound of gunfire, not wholly eliminate it,” said Ralph Clark, the chief executive of ShotSpotter. “We have successfully if not inadvertently detected confirmed suppressed gunfire within our existing deployments. Although we have not formally tested the theoretical impact to our system, we intend to do some targeted testing in the near future. We believe we will have various options ranging from increasing our sensor array density to developing software/firmware to address the detection of suppressed gunfire if it were to become a widespread issue.”
Despite what some may claim, a silencer will not make a mass shooter more deadly, or hunter less safe.
Myth #2: Restricting them has kept them out of the hands of criminals!
This is a great example of correlation not equaling causation, or the Simpsons example of the tiger-repellent rock. Strict silencer laws have not, in fact, kept them out of the hands of criminals; rather their use is just not given much media play because criminals breaking the law with heavily restricted items goes against the narrative. Examples:
- Ohio machinist arrested with 199 illegal silencers
- Kansas man arrested for advertising, possessing, manufacturing & selling silencers
- Maryland man pleads guilty to possessing unregistered silencer
- Connecticut man arrested with multiple silencers
- California men arrested for manufacturing silencers & short barreled rifles
- Another California man arrested with multiple silencers
- A homeless convicted felon in California arrested with multiple machineguns & silencers
Over a half dozen examples in the last two years, with many more probably not even reported on.
So why aren’t criminals using silencers? Probably because most criminals use small, concealable handguns and adding 9-12″ to the barrel makes them much more difficult to tuck into a belt.
Myth #3: People don’t need silencers, they can just wear earplugs!
First, let’s start with the research: The CDC did a study in 2011 titled, “Noise and Lead Exposures at an Outdoor Firing Range ─ California”. In it, they stated:
The only potentially effective noise control method to reduce students’ or instructors’ noise exposure from gunfire is through the use of noise suppressors that can be attached to the end of the gun barrel.
The common sense approach to a loud noise is to muffle the item causing it, not to expect everyone in the area to be equipped with ear protection. It’s only when that is not possible that additional hearing protection is suggested, which is why cars have mufflers instead of expecting drivers & passengers to wear ear plugs.
Second, when carrying a firearm for self defense, it is not possible or practical to wear ear plugs or muffs at all times. There are over 16 million people with concealed carry permits in the United States, and unknown numbers of people who concealed carry in the 13 states with Constitutional Carry. Each one runs the risk of permanent hearing loss should they be forced to defend themselves.
In addition, wearing ear plugs or muffs reduces safety, not increases it. With hearing protection on, all sound is reduced, not just the gunshot, resulting in a loss of situational awareness:
- Hunters cannot hear other people in the woods.
- A homeowner inside their house will not be able to effectively hear an intruder’s movements – or police commands if they make entry.
- Students receiving instruction have to learn to overcome the blast & recoil, rather than concentrating on form & control.
- The areas surrounding firing ranges have increased levels of noise pollution.
Myth #4: If silencers are easier to get, there will be more criminals using silencers!
While I already addressed this partially with Myth #1 & how guns are still loud even with a silencer attached, this argument really requires a leap in logic to believe.
First, seized firearms figures show that most criminals use small & inexpensive handguns for crime. The Trace was kind enough to provide data from Chicago PD which had inexpensive models from Ruger, Hi-Point, & other manufacturers dominating. A stickup artist is not going to add 9-12″ of suppressor to the barrel of their firearm making it harder to conceal… not to mention doubling or tripling the price.
Second, there were also huge numbers of revolvers present, which cannot be effectively silenced due to the gap between the cylinder & the barrel. This throws additional cold water on potential criminal silencer use.
Silencers are a Public Health issue
Obviously the medical community must have something to say about this, right?
Surprise! They’ve been refusing to comment at all. The silence of medical groups is something that has not gone unnoticed by the firearms community. You’d think that decriminalizing a device that will prevent medical injury would be a no-brainer for medical professionals, but:
[T]he American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, and the American Academy of Pediatrics not only refuse to support doing away with the outdated restrictions. They won’t even promote the use of suppressors as a valuable public health solution.
Even the group representing ear doctors, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, has decided officially to refuse their support of both this hearing-saving tool and the legislation that would make it widely available to their patients.
Usually eager to try to force further gun control under the guise of “Public Health” the medical community has been strangely quiet. There are no shortage of articles in medical journals advocating for stricter firearms laws, from background checks to “safe storage” to banning assault weapons, none of which have a proven track record of success at effecting, never mind reducing harm. Yet when it comes to easing access to something that has empirically measurable, demonstrated effectiveness at preventing injury, they have nothing to say.
This, right here, reveals just how bankrupt the “gun safety” movement is.
Spotted on The Firearm Blog, a hobbyist machinist fabricated his own AR-15 lower receiver. Big deal, some people will scoff, “80% lower builds are nothing new.”
Well, this actually is a big deal, because this guy took around 250 aluminum cans, melted them down in a backyard forge, poured them into ingots, and then created his own billet of aluminum stock:
With milling machines & lathes available off Amazon, technology is increasingly available to the end user; there is no longer a giant barrier to entry in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment in machinery.
Cody Wilson’s Ghost Gunner is merely a simplified version of what the above youtuber did. You can’t stop the signal.
David Yamane is a sociologist who runs a blog called Gun Culture 2.0; he tackles various topics that arise concerning the 2nd Amendment. I stumbled across his blog a few years back and was delighted to discover that he regularly puts out good information & has his students do studies on 2nd Amendment related topics.
He recently has been addressing the topic “How Many Households in America Today Have Guns?” and wrote:
Legault and Lizotte estimated the U.S. civilian gun stock to be just over 216 million as of 2006. And the 2015 National Firearms Survey (NFS) pegs the current stock of firearms at somewhere between 245 million and 285 million.
I know some will argue that the NFS estimate is low, and that there are over 300 million firearms in the United States today. But for me, Wright’s “give or take a few tens of millions” is right on. The heart of Wright’s observation is that there are ALOT of guns in America. Even though no one knows exactly how many, these estimates all support the idea that there are ALOT. Far more than any other country, both in absolute numbers and per capita. Whether it is 285 million or 315 million is inconsequential.
Commentators responded that these estimates may be low by pointing a Weaponsman blog posting referring to ATF manufacturer figures showing 250 million serial numbered firearms manufactured since 1999.
David did a followup article and addresses this:
The author, who writes under the pseudonym “Hognose,” reports on a BAFTE data system called “Access 2000 (A2K)” (see Appendix II here for a brief overview). As Hognose describes it, “This system allows voluntarily participating manufacturers, importers and wholesalers (no retailers) to enter their firearms by the identifying data that goes on a 4473 directly into an ATF computer.”
I’m going to quote from the Weaponsman article here to give some context:
The typical estimate of the total number of firearms in the USA is about 300 million, depending on whom is queried. […]
We believe that the correct number is much higher — somewhere between 412 and 660 million. You may wonder how we came to that number, so buckle up (and cringe, if you’re a math-phobe, although it never gets too theoretical): unlike most of the academics and reporters we linked above, we’re going to use publicly available data, and show our work.
What if we told you that one ATF computer system logged, by serial number, 252,000,000 unique firearms, and represented only those firearms manufactured, imported or sold by a relatively small number of the nation’s tens of thousands of Federal Firearms Licensees?
ATF maintains a system, introduced in 1999, called Access 2000 or A2K (GAO report; details are in the .pdfs linked at that .html link). This system allows voluntarily participating manufacturers, importers and wholesalers (no retailers) to enter their firearms by the identifying data that goes on a 4473 directly into an ATF computer.
The relevance of the A2K database to the question of how many guns is this: “As of 2 October, 2015,** the data in A2K included 252,433,229 records, representing one firearm each.”** […]
None of the current academic media and academic estimates were developed with A2K data, even though this data has been made publicly available. You’re probably reading about it here for the first time.
**The participants in A2K include, as of fall, 2015, 35 firms representing 66 FFLs total.**
**As of 2 October, 2015, the data in A2K included 252,433,229 records, representing one firearm each.** That means that at least those 250 million firearms have been manufactured, or imported, or sold at wholesale in approximately 15 years. (Duplicate records, say from a manufacturer or importer in 2000 a jobber as a used gun in 2007, don’t increment the count; the unique serial number ties those data points together as a single “record”).
For the total count of firearms in the USA to be 300 million, the following must be true:
(A2K + all firearms made and sold by non-A2K FFLs from 1999-2015 + all firearms made by everyone 1899-1999 + all firearms imported 1899-1999 + all firearms made or imported since October, 2015) – firearms exported = 300M.
It seems unlikely that 5/6 of all firearms were made or imported in the last 17 years. […]
They address numerous things and conclude with:
At this point we have a reasonable and very conservative, very low estimate of 329 million new firearms to the US market 1999-2016. The question becomes one of estimating how many firearms were made and imported in the period from the invention of modern metallic cartridge, smokeless powder ammunition from, say, 1899 to 1998 — and how many of those survive as practical, usable firearms. […]
Absent a better idea, we can say that** the US inventory of firearms is almost certainly between 412 and 660 million**, not the lower numbers recently trumpeted in the media.
This also doesn’t count the number of firearms made from “80%” receivers, AK flats, and the like.