Estimating Firearms Ownership: A possible direct measurement, and a possible problem

Someone recently stumbled upon a way to estimate firearms ownership in America; a method which I don’t recall seeing used in any published research.

Real estate listings.

It seems a great many online real estate listings with interior photographs show numerous firearms, racks, hunting trophies, reloading equipment, and other direct and indirect indicators of firearms possession, presumably lawful since listers are comfortable with posting the images publicly.

This was a narrow sample of America: single-family dwellings in rural portions of a specific state. But examining a wider selection might be fruitful.

Some advantages of using real estate listings for such an estimate include:

  • Listings can show geographic distribution down to the neighborhood (but it might too cumbersome to go below the county level).
  • Other studies have associated geographic location with political leanings; this could cross-referenced to suggest a firearms ownership/politics correlation which is usually assumed.
  • Likewise could a demographic (race, ethnicity, etc.) be more accurately established.
  • Asking/sale prices may be a proxy for the owner’s economic status.

Sadly, I lack the resources to fund such a study. Nor do I have the knowledge of statistics to conduct it personally. But this is data — if it can be reliably inferred — would be very valuable to many people.

That said, I have to ask: WTF?

A common criticism of telephonic surveys on firearms ownership is, “I’m not going to tell a total stranger on the phone what guns — or other valuables — I have. Maybe it’s really a burglar screening for lucrative targets.”

So why would you post photos, or let your real estate agent do so, of your firearms (or other equipment indicating their presence) complete with your address?


Carl is an unpaid TZP volunteer. If you found this post useful, please consider dropping something in his tip jar. He could use the money, what with truck repairs and recurring bills.

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3 thoughts on “Estimating Firearms Ownership: A possible direct measurement, and a possible problem”

  1. If you want privacy you have to work for it.

    Be proactive and demand that your real estate agent pre-clear all images with you. Conceal embarrassing items. The internet is forever, they say.

    While you are at it, lock up your medications because an “open house” theft is a common method of obtaining opioids illegally.

      1. An obscure fact about the opioid misuse issue is that most of the diverted opioids are illegally obtained from friends and/or family for free (or by theft).

        Perfect strangers “shopping” in your medicine cabinet is another ploy to get opioids with little risk.

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