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As the gun violence debate rages on across the nation, a former New Jersey governor is offering a statistic about the prevalence of weapons in the United States.
"We have over 300,000,000 weapons, firearms in this country. That’s almost as big as the population," Florio said during an interview for Governors’ Perspective, an occasional segment for "On the Record" with Michael Aron on NJTV that aired Feb. 16. Former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman also participated in the interview.
Florio’s statistic seems pretty high – there are almost as many firearms as people in the United States?
First, let’s review population totals. As of Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau’s POPClock lists the nation’s population as 315,433,299.
Now let’s look into that guns figure.
Florio, a Democrat, told us he got the number from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.
"All of the gun control organizations use it," Florio said. "No one has really refuted it."
The coalition of more than 850 mayors from across the country works to prevent criminals from getting guns illegally while also supporting legal gun ownership, according to its website.
It’s worth noting that the National Rifle Association even cites the statistic, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"The number of privately owned guns in the U.S. is at an all-time high, upwards of 300 million, and now rises by about 10 million per year," the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said in a firearms safety fact sheet released Jan. 17.
Donna Sellers, a spokeswoman for the ATF in Washington, said there is no national firearms registry, except for those firearms defined in the National Firearms Act, and instead pointed us to manufacturing and import/export reports maintained on the ATF website.
"We would have no way of knowing how many firearms there are," Sellers said.
Florio also is correct that other gun-control organizations cite the 300 million figure.
The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence directed us to a September 2010 Gun Control Facts report that looks at population, gun manufacturing in the United States, ownership, crimes and more.
"As of 2009, the United States has a population of 307 million people. Based on production data from firearm manufacturers, there are roughly 300 million firearms owned by civilians in the United States as of 2010," the report by James D. Agresti and Reid K. Smith stated.
"There’s no perfect estimate of firearms in the U.S. because creating a national registry of firearms is prohibited by federal law," Alex Katz, a spokesman for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said in an e-mail. "But academics and interest groups across the political spectrum broadly agree on the 300 million figure."
A November 2012 report titled "Gun Control Legislation" from the Congressional Research Service also supports that number.
As of 2009, the report states, "the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States had increased to approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns."
Florio said during a recent television interview, "We have over 300,000,000 weapons, firearms in this country. That’s almost as big as the population."
Data from a variety of sources including the Congressional Research Service, NRA and others confirm the 300 million figure. While population and firearms figures have fluctuated over the years, Florio’s point is clear: there’s nearly one gun for every person in the United States. We rate his claim True.
To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.
Governors’ Perspectives, http://watch.njtvonline.org/video/2335867078
Phone interview with former Gov. James Florio, Feb. 25, 2013
Phone interview with Donna Sellers, spokeswoman, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Feb. 22, 2013
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website, Annual Firearms Manufacturers And Export Reports, 1998-2011, accessed Feb. 22 and March 4, 2013
E-mail interview with Alex Katz, deputy communications director, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Office of the Mayor of New York City, Feb. 25, 2013
MayorsAgainstIllegalGuns.org, accessed Feb. 25 and March 4, 2013
Phone interview with Nicola Bocour, project director, Ceasefire NJ, Feb. 25, 2013
Congressional Research Service, Gun Control Legislation, Nov. 14, 2012, accessed Feb. 25 and 26, 2013
CNN.com, By the Numbers: Guns in America, Aug. 9, 2012, accessed Feb. 25, 2013
JustFacts.com, Gun Control Facts, Sept. 13, 2010 and Feb. 11, 2013, accessed Feb. 25, 2013
NYTimes.com, America and Guns, Once More, Jan. 9, 2011, accessed Feb. 25, 2013
NYTimes.com, In Other Countries, Gun Laws are Strict and Work, Dec. 17, 2012, accessed Feb. 25, 2013
ABCNews.com, Gun Deaths: A Familiar American Experience, July 21, 2012, accessed Feb. 25, 2013
WashingtonPost.com, A better target for gun control, Dec. 18, 2012, accessed Feb. 25, 2013
PBS.org, After Newtown: Guns in America, Feb. 19, 2013, accessed Feb. 25, 2013
NRAILA.org, Firearm Safety in America 2013, Jan. 17, 2013, accessed Feb. 26, 2013
U.S. Census Bureau website, POPClock Projection, accessed Feb. 26 and March 4, 2013
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website, Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide 2005, accessed March 4, 2013
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