NEW YORK, March 10 (UPI) -- The number of American households with guns has declined by more than 15 percent since the 1970s, data from the General Social Survey indicates.
In the early 1970s, household gun ownership was at about 50 percent and has steadily dropped to 34 percent in 2012, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The General Social Survey -- conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, NORC, at the University of Chicago -- polled about 2,000 people from March to September in 2012. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Although gun ownership was at 32 percent in 2010, researchers said the difference in the statistics was not significant.
"There are all these claims that gun ownership is going through the roof," said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. "But I suspect the increase in gun sales has been limited mostly to current gun owners. The most reputable surveys show a decline over time in the share of households with guns."
However, the Times said it is hard to tell what the actual rate of household gun ownership in the United States is, because various recent national polls reported a wide range of rates between 35 percent and 52 percent.
"I'm sure there are a lot of people who would love to make the case that there are fewer gun owners in this country, but the stories we've been hearing and the data we've been seeing simply don't support that," said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association
Yet, Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey, said his poll findings were in line with two other national trends -- a drop in hunting and in violent crimes.
"If there was a national registry that recorded all firearm purchases, we'd have a full picture," he said. "But there's not, so we've got to put together pieces."