America's Gun Owner Base Shrinks to 30% – But its Voice Gets Louder

by Bob Adelmann


Following the defeat of the gun control bill in Washington this week, pundits from across the political spectrum have commented on it. They range from outrage to joyous celebration. A rather thoughtful and fair article was written by Andy Sullivan of Reuters which often has a more balanced perspective than many others. He reviewed the clout of the NRA and its organized and effective resistance to Obama’s infringements but failed to mention two other powerhouses: Gun Owners of America with its 300,000 members, and the Second Amendment Foundation with its 650,000 members. And nothing was said about the individual American who is tired of Obama who isn’t a member of any of these groups but made his voice heard anyway.

There were two things that struck me. First, the gun owner base in the US is shrinking. Sullivan quoted the results from the General Social Survey done each year by the University of Chicago which showed that the percentage of households owning guns has dropped from 54 percent in 1977 to just 30 percent currently. When I saw that statistic I immediately questioned it and checked it out elsewhere and learned that it is accurate. Fewer than one in three households now own a gun, or at least admit that they do.

My first reaction was: time is working against us.

But Sullivan gave me hope and a reminder: small, noisy well-coordinated interest groups that are passionate about something have influence far beyond their numbers. Sullivan reported that Bloomberg spent $12 million on this issue to no avail:

As Wednesday’s vote showed, the NRA can count on their 4.5 million members to leap into action when it counts. Gun-control groups have yet to match that type of enduring intensity.

“People who own guns care about guns,” said Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist who now heads a gun-rights group called Independent Firearm Owners of America that supported the background-check legislation…

A motivated minority that cares passionately about an issue often carries more weight in Washington than a majority that is not quite as focused on that single issue.

And then I remembered this quote from Margaret Mead:

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Besides that, truth is never decided by majority rule.


A graduate of Cornell University and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at

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