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Americans own 423M guns & 8.1B rounds of ammunition, latest data shows

A rack of various modern sporting rifles, mostly AR-15s, in Gallenson's Gun Shop, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. (Michael McConville/Wikimedia Commons)
December 05, 2019

Rates of firearm ownership and gun sales are on the rise despite calls for gun control, according to a report released Wednesday by the Firearms Industry Trade Association (FITA).

Using the most recent data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF’s) Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Reports (AFMER) to draw its conclusions, FITA’s report stated there are 422.9 million firearms in civilian possession from 1986 to 2018, along with an estimated 8.1 billion rounds of various firearms calibers and gauges.

The report also noted that in a 25 year period between 1993 and 2017, the violent crime rate has dropped by 48.6 percent while firearms-related accidents have decreased by 68 percent.

“These figures show the industry that America has a strong desire to continue to purchase firearms for lawful purposes,” said Joe Bartozzi, President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “The Modern Sporting Rifle continues to be the most popular centerfire rifle sold in America today and is clearly a commonly-owned firearm with more than 17 million in legal private ownership today. The continued popularity of handguns demonstrates a strong interest by Americans to protect themselves and their homes, and to participate in the recreational shooting sports.”

The report showed more than half of all rifles purchased in 2017 were modern sporting rifles, indicating a strong interest in those types of firearms despite increasing legal obstacles.  In fact, some gun shop owners say sales have gone up, not in spite of, but because of many proposals for more restrictive gun control policy.

Gun shop representatives said that they are seeing more purchases of semiautomatic weapons such as handguns and AR-15s in spite of the public criticism against those guns by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. And they are thanking those political opponents for the boost in sales.

“Sales have definitely been brisk, especially of small, concealable handguns. We also saw a spike in sales of tactical rifles like AR-15s and AK-47s, for which I think we can confidently thank Beto O’Rourke,” Justin Anderson, the marketing director for Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina told the Washington Examiner.

Hyatt Guns is one of the largest firearms retailers in the country.

O’Rourke gained attention during one debate experience when he said “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15” in response to a question on whether he favored mandatory gun buyback programs.

While O’Rourke characterized weapons like AR-15s, AK-47s and other semi-automatic rifles are “instruments of terror,” recent FBI statistics found individuals are more likely to be killed by blunt force weapons than by rifles.

Those statistics showed that in 2017, 467 people were killed by a blunt object, while 403 people were killed by any type of rifle, including both semi-automatic rifles and other types using other reloading actions like bolts and levers.