While the national debate over firearms ramps up, gun ownership in America is experiencing a four-decade decline.
Perhaps the most surprising news in a new national survey was that the South and Western mountain states showed some of the biggest declines in gun ownership. This morning's New York Times reports that a "broad cast cross section of households since the early 1970s" no longer owns guns.
"The rate has dropped in cities large and small, in suburbs and rural areas and in all regions of the country," reported the Times.
According to data from the General Social Survey, the household gun ownership rate has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s. In 2012, the share of American households with guns dropped to 34 percent.
The survey also indicates that gun ownership in both the South and mountain region dropped to less than 40 percent of households this decade, down from 65 percent in the 1970s.
Why? Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research theorized that many Americans were introduced to guns through military service, which included a large part of the population in the Vietnam War era. But now that the Army is volunteer and a small fraction of the population, Webster said it is less a gateway for gun ownership. Urbanization also helped drive the decline. Rural areas, where gun ownership is the highest, are now home to about 17 percent of Americans, down from 27 percent in the 1970s.