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Border Boletín: Gun ownership down, survey shows

Border Boletín: Gun ownership down, survey shows

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My colleague, Tim Steller, and I did extensive research for our Sunday story about gun issues raised by the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson. As is often the case with these in-depth stories, not all of the interesting information we found made in the story.

Much of it will likely be included in future articles we write on the topic, but here’s one nugget I thought you would find interesting — gun ownership levels in the United States over the last two decades.

Any guess on whether it’s gone up or down?

If you guessed down, you were right.

Nationally, the percentage of adults living in homes with guns has decreased from 51.6 percent in 1980 to 32 percent in 2010, shows survey data from the National Opinion Research Center  at the University of Chicago.

The percentage of adults who personally owned a firearm has decreased from 29 percent in 1980 to 21 percent in 2010, survey data shows.

Here's a 2007 report from the Violence Policy Center about this trend:

• A Shrinking Minority: The Continuing Decline of Gun Ownership in America

Here is a breakdown of the surveys done by the NORC over the past 20 years:

Year — Have gun in home/ Gun belongs to respondent

1980 — 52 percent/ 29 percent

1982 — 51 percent/ 29 percent

1984 — 48 percent/ 26 percent

1985 — 48 percent/ 31 percent

1987 — 48 percent/ 28 percent

1988 — 43 percent/ 25 percent

1989 — 49 percent/ 27 percent

1990 — 46 percent/ 29 percent

1991 — 44 percent/ 28 percent

1993 — 46 percent/ 29 percent

1994 — 44 percent/ 29 percent

1996 — 43 percent/ 27 percent

1998 — 37 percent/ 23 percent

2000 — 34 percent/ 22 percent

2002 — 36 percent/ 26 percent

2004 — 37 percent/ 26 percent

2006 — 35 percent/ 22 percent

2008 — 36 percent/ 24 percent

2010 — 32 percent/ 21 percent



Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association has made a new fundraising video aimed at countering the argument that American gun owners are to blame for the weapons being used in Mexico’s drug wars:

• "Immigration corruption and criminal aliens are destoying us"

The video features Arizona’s two border hawk sheriffs — Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever — and several Arizona ranchers.

The video brings into question the infamous “90 percent” statistic about Mexican crime guns coming from the United States. The NRA calls the figure a myth.

Here’s the accurate way to describe the statistic: 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexican crimes in the past three years have been traced back to the United States, according to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commonly known as the ATF.

That’s no myth, but it doesn’t account for all the guns not recovered and traced in Mexico, which is why the NRA has long disputed the claim. They say are so many guns unaccounted for that the figures is irrelevant. The gun rights organization also says fully automatic rifles, grenades and rocket launchers used by the Mexican cartels are illegal to sell in the United States, and must come from other countries.


If you interested in the the issue of guns being smuggled from the United States to Mexico, here are three stories and blog item I've written about increased efforts by the U.S. to slow the southbound flow of guns to Mexico and the challenge they face:

• 'Straw purchases' targeted (Aug. 14, 2009)

• US makes it easy for gun traffickers (June 28, 2009)

• After years of scrutinizing traffic out of Mexico, agents now trying to sniff out guns going south (March 28, 2009)

 • Border Boletín: Arizona key supplier of Mexican crime guns (Sept. 9, 2010)

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