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Harvard Gun-Ownership Poll Results Questionable at Best

(Photo: Andrew Stanfill courtesy of The Guardian)
(Photo: Andrew Stanfill courtesy of The Guardian)

Earlier this month, public health researchers from Harvard and Northwestern Universities released the results of a 2015 survey regarding gun ownership in America.

While interesting, its results should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

The survey revealed Americans own an estimated 265 million firearms, or more than one gun for every American adult. But it goes further. It estimates that “133 million of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.”

These results have been touted over and over again by liberal news media and gun-control advocates in news articles and internet blogs without a critical eye towards the legitimacy of the survey.

Well, let’s take a look at these results and whether or not they can be viewed as accurate or even believable.

First, how likely is a gun owner to accurately report the number of guns he or she owns to a random stranger on the phone? Sure, some may be honest, but let’s not kid ourselves. Most law-abiding gun owners, when confronted with an unexpected phone call from a complete stranger asking whether or not they have a gun in the home and how many, will be unwilling to share that sensitive information.

Guns are expensive and sharing information with someone who may or may not be associated with a legitimate polling company is perhaps not the wisest thing to do. Does the person on the other end of the phone have a nefarious agenda? Will the information you provide wind up in the hands of a criminal waiting for the opportunity to break in and steal the guns you just willingly revealed?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) estimated that 1.4 million guns were stolen in home burglaries between 2005 and 2010. In St. Louis, where violent crime skyrocketed in 2015, reports of gun thefts were up nearly 70 percent last year.

Furthermore, the law-abiding gun-owning citizens of this country have a legitimate concern that there are some politicians (and advocacy groups) that would like nothing more than to take the guns away from everyone, and often cite favorably the gun-confiscation program recently enacted in Australia as a model for America.

There is a legitimate concern that providing information to “pollsters” about gun ownership may wind up in a database with your address and the number of guns you claim to possess, making it easier for authorities to come and take them, should the unthinkable happen.

Take for example the experience of Connecticut, a state that recently required every gun be registered. Industry experts estimate that the compliance rate was about 15 percent. That’s one in seven gun-owners. And that’s in response to an actual law. How many do you think would have voluntarily registered their firearms, or responded truthfully to a voice on the phone prying into their private affairs?

There is no law that you have to be honest with pollsters. Thank goodness.

If you received a random phone call inquiring about the firearms in your possession or your home, would you really provide them with an accurate inventory?


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