Millennials and Gun Ownership

“Gun Culture 2.0” is predicated on increased ownership of guns by millenials, especially handgun ownership by young women. While there are some fun anecdotal evidence here  and there, I haven’t seen much reliable evidence until now. is run by a guy with a PoliSci Ph.D. from MIT and he recently posted an analysis of this exact topic. The results are not pretty for the 2.0 hypothesis: They’re rate of ownership is below the rate of GenX and well below Boomers and prior generations.

Although the author lets his personal beliefs slip in by referring to ownership as “gun exposure”, his analysis looks very straightforward and completely reliable.

He has also examined an issue that I wondered about: the differing ownership rates reported in different polls. By matching up the General Social Survey with two versions of Gallup polls he shows that the GSS shows a declining ownership rate sharply at odds with the Gallup polls. In instances like this I believe that the specialized poll tends to be more reliable, so I suspect that the Gallup poll is closer to the truth.

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2 Responses to Millennials and Gun Ownership

  1. davidyamane says:

    Interesting post and thanks for it. I think to truly speak to the Gun Culture 2.0 argument, we need to understand the qualitative difference between Gun Culture 1.0, based in hunting and military backgrounds and so long-gun heavy, and Gun Culture 2.0, based in self-defense and so handgun heavy. Policybythenumbers doesn’t make that distinction. We need to know, e.g., of the silent generation at 18-29 years old, what % owned handguns compared to millennials at 18-29 years old. And we want to know how they used them.

    Another possible Gun Culture 2.0 phenomenon of interest is people who grew up without guns but got into guns despite this fact. This is interesting regardless of age – I shot a gun for the first time when I was over 40.

    And, last, I would really like to see some good evidence on gun ownership among women. “Do you have a gun in your home” is not a good question to assess this.

    I definitely think there can be some life course effects here, too, as policybythenumbers suggests in comparing younger and older millennials.


    • johnsmith223 says:

      Thanks. I agree that “Do you have a gun in your home” inadequately addresses the gender issue.
      On long gun vs. handgun, I used the questions on ownership by type of gun and plotted it on ownership of any gun. It appears that, while handgun ownership (the question says “pistol”, but I’m pretty sure it means handgun) is stable, there has been a decline in long gun ownership. Further, to explain the more rapid decline in overall ownership, it must be the case that there is an increase in those who own multiple types of guns.


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