Problems with the new Harvard-Northeastern Gun Survey

Sep 21, 2016 | Featured

The new Harvard-Northeastern survey is very disappointing. There are two points to this survey.  That the percentage of the population owning guns is falling and that a very small percent of the population is buying a huge number of guns.  The new book The War on Guns has a chapter showing that both of these points are inaccurate.
— If one looks at all the surveys on the question of changes in gun ownership, most surveys show that gun ownership rates have been constant over time (some evidence shows that gun ownership has been increasing).  A brief discussion of some of the material in the new book is provided here.
— But there is a general problem with survey data.  Hard data, such a the number of permits that are required before someone can own a gun in some states such as Illinois, show a dramatic increase in gun ownership at the same time that these surveys for those states are showing a drop in gun ownership.  The likely reason that all these surveys on gun ownership are biased against showing an increase is because gun owners have been relatively less willing over time to tell pollsters that they own guns.
This hard data indicates such a large increase in gun owners relative to the polls that it makes it mathematically impossible for the claim to be true that gun sales are being driven by a small group of gun owners.
— A more detailed analysis can’t be done because, as is so typical of them, the people who have done this survey have only released copies of it to Bloomberg The Trace and to Lois Beckett at the Guardian (Beckett also has a connection to the very left wing ProPublica).  If the people who did this survey also remain true to form, the survey data will be release sometime 10 to 15 years from now.  They do all these things to make it difficult for anyone to comment during the news cycle when they release the survey.



  1. JB

    This study has no chance but to be woefully inaccurate. How many gun owners including myself do you think are going to tell Harvard how many and what kind of guns they have? My response would been none of your business

  2. Bartosh Rudnicki


    “If one looks at all the surveys on the question of changes in gun ownership, most surveys show that gun ownership rates have been constant over time (some evidence shows that gun ownership has been increasing).”

    The peer reviewed studies constantly show that indirect or veiled questions give a more accurate result. For example: we know that surveys done using traditional methods dramatically underestimate sexual preferences or behaviurs. We also have a veiled/indirect question about guns: Pew, Gallup and Rasmussen Reports find +60% of Americans say having a gun in the home makes the household safer from crimes and in my opinion that seems to be the real gun ownership rate in 21st century America (above 50%).

  3. Bartosh Rudnicki

    And by the way: don’t forget the “decline” always happens to take place right as gun control restrictions were being imposed at the federal level or when Washington, D.C. politicians call for gun control.

    Since the early 1990s, when Clinton pushed the Brady Bill, federal “assault weapons” ban and zoning regulations that drove many small gun dealers out of business (back then they were called “kitchen-table dealers”), lots of gun owners have not identified themselves as such during the surveys.

  4. Ed Gruberman

    In CA the DOJ does their own DROS check, they know who have the guns. It would be real easy to see if the applicants are new or existing. That would tell whether or not it’s increasing or decreasing.

  5. jsl55

    I got rid of all my guns…for the children.

      • Bartosh Rudnicki

        What about this paper?

        The authors found that states with safe storage and CAP laws (Child Access Prevention) saw unintentional shooting deaths of children and teens younger than 15 fall 25 percent between 1990 and 1994. That same study suggested a relationship between these laws and a decrease in teen suicide.

        • Sparkletron

          Percentages are rather disingenuous without context and absolute numbers. Should we throw away a fundamental right to protect ourselves so that we can reduce suicides from 12.3 per 100,000 to 9.3 per 100,000? What if I told you I could increase your wealth 10,000%? Now what if you only had a penny to begin with? Would it make a difference? Incidentally, France has strict gun control like the kind liberals dream of, yet they have more per capita suicides than the USA. In any case, it’s not a sound policy to let a fundamental right be determined by the status of mentally ill people. That’s insanity.

    • Tom

      For the children, I got more guns. My kids understand the power that guns possess and danger that guns can pose. They respect the gun. We have opened a dialog between my kids and friend’s kids so that they are not amazed by some magical device and therefore try to sneak one to show a friend, instead, it now is not some taboo item and has lost its luster, so to speak. My friends and I are now approachable by kids that may want to shoot a gun, handle it, and therefore…’get it out of there system.’ They now can approach us to safely shoot at a target or go hunting and learn handling and care of the weapon.

  6. Luthfan

    The solution is don’t have gun in house.

  7. Omsehat

    There should be strict laws to regulate gun ownership.

  8. berita unik

    dont give any gun is the main solution

    i hope america will change her mind

  9. daftarinfo

    who can have guns only police. dangerous if all have gun.