The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
CBS News reports on the "Most heavily-armed states in America." No. 30 on the list (and the first one CBS News includes) is Florida:
As America reels from yet another mass shooting, inevitable questions resurface about guns laws and the nation's pervasive firearm culture. Here is a look at the 30 states with the most guns per capita, according to the ATF's National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, and 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Florida comes in at number 30, with 10.2 guns for every 1,000 residents. That's a staggering 199,828 registered firearms dispersed among 19,552,860 people.
Yow! Who knew Floridians were so lightly armed? After all, the best estimates are that there are about 300 million guns in the United States, or an average of about one gun for every resident. Yet Florida apparently actually has a gun ownership rate only 1 percent of that. And Washington, D.C., despite its relatively stringent gun controls, is No. 2 on the list (i.e., almost as well-armed as No. 1 Wyoming), at 66.4 guns per 1,000 residents, a rate six times Florida's! I learn something new every day.
The problem, as best I can tell, is that (1) CBS News used the wrong dataset, and (2) the authors and editors of this story don't know even the most basic things about gun ownership. How else can one underestimate it by a factor of, conservatively estimated, about 50 (assuming Florida has about half the gun ownership rate of the United States generally, something that I expect is an underestimate)?
The ATF data that CBS News cites is for "National Firearms Act Registered Weapons by State," which is to say the highly unusual weapons that have to be registered under the National Firearms Act: machine guns, silencers, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, hand grenades and so on. Some of them aren't "guns" at all—but, more importantly, those that are guns represent a tiny fraction of all the guns out there; ordinary handguns, rifles and shotguns just don't need to be registered under the National Firearms Act.
Thanks to Ronald A. Jones for the pointer.