America’s Gun Fantasy

Article America’s Gun Fantasy

Three percent of the nation owns half the firearms—to prepare for an ultraviolent showdown that exists only in their imagination.





  • Controversial
  • Eye Opening
  • Eloquent


To the outside observer, the inability or unwillingness of the American government to restrict gun ownership makes no sense. With more than 33,000 annual gun deaths, the US’s gun violence is an outlier in the developed world. As author and radio host Kurt Andersen explains, however, both love of guns and the notion of a fundamental right to bear arms are deeply ingrained in the American psyche. But while gun sales have skyrocketed in recent decades, the number of adults who own firearms has in fact shrunk dramatically. Why do a small number of gun zealots continue to amass weapons? The reasons, Andersen argues, range from far-fetched to disturbing. 


The percentage of gun-owners in the United States has declined from around 50% to 25% since the 1970s. And yet, thanks to the hyperbolic imaginings of firearms fanatics – each of whom owns about 17 guns on average – the number of guns in the US has increased dramatically during this same time period. Today, 3% of Americans possess about half of all privately-owned guns in the US.

Guns allow some weapons owners to imagine themselves as militiamen, cowboys, or movie heroes, ready to fight the bad guys...

About the Author

Kurt Andersen is an American writer and host of the Peabody-winning public radio program Studio 360.

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