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L. Neil Smith's
Number 536, September 13, 2009

"Spirits crushed so badly that the victims
have no way of knowing they've been crushed."

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Not Enough Guns
by Jim Davidson

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Larken Rose was recently quoted on a friend's profile to the effect that 90 million Americans own guns. I find this figure laughable. It is far too low.

There are 305 million Americans according to the census bureau-rats. I would not be surprised if they are failing to count many millions, as incompetent as they are at everything they do. But let's take that as a given.

This 90 million figure says that fewer than 30% of the population owns guns. That is completely at variance from my experience. On the contrary, I would say that about 70-80% of the population owns guns, or lives in a home where guns are owned. (Children are counted in the population.) I suspect that the argument that only 29.5% of the population owns guns is meant to suggest it is a weird and deviant and abnormal preference, not common to most people.

What I will believe is that 30% of the population admits to owning guns when filthy, lousy, mealy-mouthed, stinking, belching, boozing, raping bureau-rats come around with their nosy questions. Maybe.

Then we come to the published statistics. The government loves to publish stuff. In 1994, they published an estimate from the department of injustice that 192 million "firearms" were owned by Americans. Now, "firearm" is a particular term of art, because the old bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives of the treasury department was not authorised to regulate "guns." Weapons from before 1899 or so were generally not regarded as firearms—but are quite capable of killing a tyrant dead.

So one of the artful things to wonder about is what they mean when they say "firearms" and not guns. Or when one of their questionnaires asks whether you have any guns or revolvers in the house or garage. lol

But then there is this document:

It very helpfully says that there were 223 million guns owned by Americans in 1995. That means that in just one year, 31 million new guns became available. Well, that's interesting.

Further to that point, there are these particular statistics included.

From 1973 to 1993, U.S. manufacturers produced:

  • 6.6 million .357 Magnum revolvers
  • 6.5 million .38 Special revolvers
  • 5.4 million .22 caliber pistols
  • 5.3 million .22 caliber revolvers
  • 4.5 million .25 caliber pistols
  • 3.1 million 9 millimeter pistols
  • 2.4 million .380 caliber pistols
  • 2.2 million .44 Magnum revolvers
  • 1.7 million .45 caliber pistols
  • 1.2 million .32 caliber revolvers.

If we figure 31 million new guns per year from 1995 to 2009 (and there is no reason the rate has to remain constant for an increasing demand as population grows) we get a total of 434 million guns in addition to the 223 million they were willing to admit, or were able to count in 1995. So, already we have 657 million guns.

That works out to about 2.1 per American. And I think it estimates low.

The border is very porous and the coasts are very long. There is no reason to think that smuggling guns has been any harder than smuggling drugs or alcohol ever has been. Indeed, guns are much less perishable and can withstand a lot more rigorous (or sloppy) handling. Figure another ten million guns a year from smuggling, or 140 million more guns. (These are exactly the kind of guns the government wouldn't be able to count. And there's no reason to think gun smuggling has only been going on since 1995. A more reasonable figure might be upwards of 250 million smuggled guns.)

Nor is there any reason to think that the tens of millions of Americans who lived through the 19th Century were the sort to lose or destroy their guns. So, arguably, a hundred million guns of older design may have survived to the present day. These would include many shotguns, rifles, pistols, flintlocks, muskets, and repeating rifles. They would also include some early model automatic guns like the Gatling and Maxim designs.

So, depending on what you figure for the total smuggled gun figure (over whatever period you like, say, 1920 to 2009, Palmer Raids to present) I get 897 million to one billion seven million guns. And we're not even counting private manufacture.

How hard is it to make a zip gun? Not very hard at all. The tubing from an old fashioned percolator and a rubber band to snap the firing pin into a cartridge. The Sten gun was deliberately designed to be made in improvised workshops for a cost of around $8 per gun in the day. Many types of air gun are easily converted to shoot with gun cartridges.

Is there any reason to think that another 100 million guns haven't been made from private resources? Figure only since 1920, so a bit more than a million of these odd jobs a year.

Against these figures of production, we don't know how many guns are destroyed by pigs every year. Some, of course, and there are probably stats for such things, somewhere. On the other hand, about a quarter million guns are stolen every year, which is absurdly low. It suggests that in a country of 305 million there is no difficulty in buying, inheriting, or making guns, so most people don't have any call for stealing them.

My view is that a figure more like 200 million Americans owning around a billion guns is closer to the truth. If you figure the average American has one gun that is an old heirloom, one rifle, one shotgun, one semi-auto pistol, and one revolver (and some of us have several of each, of course) then you have five guns on average. And that gets a billion guns in the hands of 200 million.

I think that's low. A bit less than two-thirds? No, I really don't think so. I'd guess closer to three quarters. That would be more like 229 million gun owners.

There's no way to be sure, of course. The government won't ever count things properly. So we can be sure their published figures are based on lies, deceit, and political chicanery.

Sensible people don't report their guns to anyone. Sensible people don't ask for permission to do what is theirs to do by right.

But, I think this figure of 90 million was pulled out of someone's rectal orifice. And I don't think it serves our interests to let it stand.

Jim Davidson is an anti-war activist involved in the divestment project detailed at He is also an author and entrepreneur. His latest book comes out this Autumn at 623 pages plus notes. Two of his current projects involve financing films, one a documentary about destination resorts in orbit. See for details.


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