The topic of private gun ownership is often a fraught one, especially in the wake of mass shootings here in the United States. For that reason, I have deliberately waited for a lull in such shootings to write this article. We are not currently in the heat of a raging gun control debate, such that maybe this article will be read in the light in which it is intended to be presented: as informational.

The Gun Ownership Divide

You will often hear it asked in the media, especially in the wake of a mass shooting, why someone needs five guns to hunt deer.  Some find it shocking indeed that only about 30 percent of Americans (roughly 96 million people) own the roughly 370 million guns that are present in the country. That works out to just under four guns per gun owner in the United States. This data comes from a 2017 Pew Research Center report on the demographics of gun ownership in America, as well as a 2016 primer on gun control in the United States.

I obviously cannot speak for all gun owners, nor will I attempt to, but I can speak for myself, and explain why I have multiple guns in my home. I will caveat this information, first, by stating that the number and types of guns found in my home are inherently private data. I am not completely comfortable laying out in full detail here the exact inventory of my personal firearms collection. So I will keep it general.


Let us begin with handguns. My wife owns a .38 S&W revolver for self-defense, and my first ever private gun purchase was also a handgun: a .45 caliber Heckler & Koch for self-defense. Additionally, my father-in-law happens to be a private collector of firearms, and one of the (many) benefits of being married to his daughter has been the gifting of some of his personal collection to his multiple son-in-laws every Christmas.

That phenomenon has netted me an additional handful of collectible handguns, including a Colt 1911 .22 caliber pistol and a .32 H&R Magnum revolver, among others. Therefore, one could also call me a small-time gun collector, or more accurately, the beneficiary of a more serious and generous collector of unique firearms.

Rifles and Shotguns

Gun Ownership can sometimes be taken to extremes
Gun Ownership can sometimes be taken to extremes. A hoard of over 5,000 guns was discovered in a man’s house in Florida. (Reuters)

In addition to handguns, this author also owns a number of rifles and shotguns. A shotgun is a more effective home defense weapon than a pistol, given its effectiveness at short-to-medium range, and the psychological effect that it has while pointed in the general direction of a home invader. That is not the main reason I own a shotgun, however. Rather, it is to hunt birds. It is merely an added benefit that I can load a shotgun with 00 buckshot, and use it as a home defense weapon while it is not being employed to bring down winged creatures.

Now, as far as hunting rifles are concerned, one reason to own more than one is if you have children who are just beginning to hunt. My kids do not enjoy the recoil nor the sound associated with my .308 Winchester bolt-action rifle, such that they need a more manageable long gun for their own use in deer hunting. For that reason, they have a .243 caliber bolt-action rifle that they use to hunt deer. It is a better size for and more easily handled by a small-framed child of age 9 to 12.

We All Need to Be More Reasonable About Gun Ownership

Why I Own "So Many" Guns
Senators discuss gun control measures in 2016. (NBC News)

Without providing an exact count, or fully describe the extent of my personal firearms collection, one can do the math and assume that I own more than the four firearms of the average American gun owner. With that said, I in no way consider myself a “gun nut,” nor do I think any reasonable reader would consider me to have an inordinate number of firearms. On the contrary, my family members and I own the number and types of weapons that we have deemed necessary for hunting, home and self-defense, and recreational collecting and shooting.

The point is, it is important when debating gun ownership in America that we stick to facts and not draw hasty conclusions about those who collect, own, and safely and responsibly use firearms. It goes the other way, as well, in that gun owners should not assume that all of those who advocate for reasonable gun laws want to take guns away from those who own them. If we keep it reasonable and measured, we certainly can engage in a civilized — and maybe even productive — debate about guns.


This article was published in December 2017. It has been edited for republication.