Last Updated:September 20 @ 08:20 am

Who owns guns in Congress?

By USA Today

Republicans in Congress are much better armed than their Democratic counterparts -- a fact that helps explain the deep partisan divide as Congress gears up for its first major votes on gun control in a decade.

One hundred nineteen Republicans and 46 Democrats declared themselves as gun owners in a USA TODAY survey of lawmakers.

There is no uniform public record of gun ownership by members of Congress, and it is not part of the information lawmakers are required to reveal in their annual financial disclosure forms. So USA TODAY and the Gannett Washington Bureau contacted every congressional office to ask: Does the lawmaker own a gun?

The results show a partisan -- and regional -- divide. Only 10% of Republicans who responded said they do not own a gun, while 66% of Democrats said they are not gun owners.

Michael Hammond, legislative counsel of Gun Owners of America, said he's not surprised. In Republican districts, a gun "is a campaign accoutrement," he said.

Plotted on a map, the survey results speak to the cultural chasm between those districts where guns are a talisman of individualism and those where guns are viewed more as a criminal tool. Only 12 lawmakers from the Northeast, including Pennsylvania, said they own firearms, while 77 Southerners said they do.

Congress' gun gap suggests that cultural factors are at least as important as the influence of the gun lobby in determining where members stand on President Obama's package of gun control proposals.

THE GUN GAP

Some members were more than willing to give an inventory of their gun lockers. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., owns three shotguns, three rifles and two pistols, press secretary Sara Lasure said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, owns a dozen, but her favorite is a 20-gauge Ruger, communications director Matthew Felling said.

Others -- overwhelmingly Southern Republicans -- declined to answer, even suggesting it was "irresponsible" for reporters to ask the question.

Again there is a partisan split: 36 Republicans in the House refused to say whether they own guns; 11 Democrats refused to say. Across both the House and Senate, an additional 161 lawmakers did not return repeated phone calls, e-mails and requests for comment -- 97 of those were Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he owns guns, though he wouldn't say what kind. His Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declined to say whether he does. In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she does not own a gun, and Speaker John Boehner's office did not respond to multiple requests.

The White House has released photos of President Obama shooting skeet but asked by reporters Monday whether Obama owns a gun, spokesman Jay Carney said "not that I am aware of."

Obama is pushing Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, expand background checks for gun purchases and adopt other measures aimed at curbing gun violence. Any new gun legislation in Congress would have to pass through the Judiciary Committee in each chamber. Eight of 23 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee confirmed they are gun owners, but only one of the panel's 17 Democrats admitted having a gun -- Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

On the Senate committee -- which is drafting gun legislation -- Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island were the only two Democrats who said they own firearms, while six of the eight Republicans on the committee said they do.

Gun ownership is clearly correlated with members' political positions. Over the past two years, the National Rifle Association's political action committee gave 10 times more contributions to House members who own guns than to those who don't, according to an analysis of campaign finance reports filed last week. And members who owned guns were eight times more likely to get an "A" rating from the NRA than those who did not.

YOU DON'T SAY

For some members, their gun ownership is a point of pride. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., provided a list of weapons he owns, and his spokeswoman followed up a few days later to note the congressman had also just bought "a third-generation Glock G27" handgun.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who famously used a rifle to shoot a copy of an environmental bill in a 2010 campaign ad, seemed surprised by the question about his gun ownership, pointing out that he is from West Virginia. "Why would anybody not own a gun?" he asked.

At least a dozen members spoke of heirloom weapons, inherited from fathers, grandfathers and mothers, that are as much a part of the family as their name.

Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., in a television ad, proudly brandishes the Smith & Wesson his grandfather used to stop a lynching -- but his office did not return phone calls to confirm his gun ownership. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., keeps a pistol and two rifles as mementos of his late father.

Asked about his gun ownership, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, tells of his great-grandfather, a Swiss immigrant who, at age 80, "went out into a duck blind on a frozen lake and he never came back.

"And they went out to find him at the end of the day, and he had died of a heart attack in the duck blind with his gun over his lap and with a smile on his face, which is part of the Portman family lore because he loved to hunt," Portman said. "I have that gun. And my kids have shot that gun, so it's a tradition in our family."

Portman said he's mostly concerned about the views of his constituents on gun rights -- but said he couldn't deny that his own experience influences his votes.

For others, the question itself was an intrusion.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said, "Given the security concerns for members of Congress and their families after the shooting of (former Arizona congresswoman) Gabrielle Giffords, it is irresponsible for members of the media to publish how members and their families protect themselves in public and at home."

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., through spokeswoman Sarah Wolf, provided a more succinct response: "None of your damn business."

Some lawmakers declined to respond to the survey even though they have already made public statements declaring themselves to be gun owners. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., would not respond to the survey, but his website says, "I am a gun owner and avid hunter, and have consistently fought to protect the right to keep and bear arms."

Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican who appears to be the only licensed gun dealer in the House, also declined to respond. Graves holds an active license for the Rockin H Gun Shop, which apparently has been in his family for some time, though there is no longer a shop affiliated with the name.

Hammond, the gun owner's group lobbyist, said he was surprised by the number of lawmakers who declined to talk about their guns. It suggests "they feel that gun ownership is more sensitive than some of the other things they have to reveal," he said.

Members are allowed a few secrets. Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer, who previously served as chief of the Capitol Police, said lawmakers are "permitted to have guns in their offices" and would not have to tell anybody they had a gun.

"We discourage them," he said. "I personally don't know of any member who is packing," he said.

In the public hallways of the Capitol, a lawmaker can carry a weapon only if it is "unloaded and securely wrapped," Gainer said.

Outside the Capitol, members are governed by the gun laws of their states. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., "travels with firearms while on official business in (his) district," press secretary Doug Coutts said.

REFLECTING THE CONSTITUENTS

The responses suggest that gun ownership among lawmakers is on par with gun ownership nationwide.

In a December 2012 USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 43% of respondents said they have a gun at home. In USA TODAY's lawmakers survey, 43% who responded said they owned guns.

Hammond argued that gun ownership does not determine a lawmakers' vote on gun control. More likely, he said, the culture of the district they represent shapes their view of gun control and their decision to own a gun.

"Lots of Democrats live in urban areas like Chicago and New York where guns are all but banned," said Hammond, whose Gun Owners of America bills itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."

Those lawmakers "don't have a lot of constituents who place a high value on the Second Amendment," and also "don't have the personal experiences with guns that would lead them to see them as anything other than a dangerous nasty object," Hammond said.

Some gun owners in Congress support gun control. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from a Minnesota district where four people were killed in a sign-shop shooting last fall, said, "I am a gun owner, and I believe in common-sense gun safety rules. Sensible gun violence prevention will help our communities to avoid devastating tragedies. We must work together to prevent gun violence."

But gun-control advocates say the USA TODAY survey shows how difficult it is for Republicans to endorse gun measures or to even publicly declare that they don't own guns. "This has become a political totem -- a badge of honor for many politicians," said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Gun ownership and the Second Amendment have become "a symbol of a political identity: a rugged individualist who is willing to lay down the law when the government oversteps its bounds," with an emphasis on small government and personal freedom, Everitt said.

For Republicans in conservative, rural districts, he said, "the reality of whether they own a gun may be butting up against the image they want to project."

DEMOCRATS 46

REPUBLICANS 119

Members of Congress who say they own a gun

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(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

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23 Comments

  1. BobinmsComment by Bobinms
    February 5, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

    More and more it seems that this country needs a divorce. There are irreconcilable differences. And half the country wants to tell the other half what they can and can’t do.

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  2. pistol packing mamaComment by txgoatlady
    February 5, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

    The White House has released photos of President Obama shooting skeet but asked by reporters Monday whether Obama owns a gun, spokesman Jay Carney said “not that I am aware of.”

    I thought the President initially claimed that the gun he is shooting in the picture is “his” gun. Which story is correct?

    By the way, the NYT article originally referred to the gun in the picture as a rifle. Their correction says the “weapon” was a shotgun, not a rifle. Now, why would they call it a weapon instead of a gun or firearm? Weapon has more to do with how something is used that what it is. My kitchen knife and baseball bat may be used as weapons. If the president was shooting at sporting clays, was he using the gun as a weapon? I hate media bias and their habit of using inflammatory language to sway people’s opinions.

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    • pistol packing mamaComment by txgoatlady
      February 5, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

      On another note, I have to agree with the congress-critters that refused to say whether or not they owned guns. With the current anti-gun climate in Washington, who wants to advertise they have guns? That might open them up to having them stolen or confiscated by a government agency.

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    • glennComment by glenn
      February 5, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

      I don’t think the picture is real. Look at the smoke coming out of the barrel of the shot gun. Have never seen such a thing except maybe an old mussel loader. The whole thing is a fake just like he is.

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    • dalehComment by daleh
      February 5, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

      Txgoatlady–

      You are right , those items you mentioned can be weapons–but when i went through Boot Camp at Parris Island, if any Recruit refferred to his M1 Rifle as a “gun” , he paid dearly for making that mistake–Our DI’s instructed us that the M1 was a “weapon” or a “piece”–and that was how we were to call it –and I doubt if the Marine DI’s are any different today on that subject then they were back in ’51—so to this day for me a rifle or or handgun is always called a weapon, unless I am describing the nomenclature of the weapon—then I use the name given by the manufacturer—

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    • bspaeroComment by bspaero
      February 5, 2013 @ 6:41 pm

      To: daleh
      You are absoulety correct “Gun control is not about guns, it’s about control” knowing where all the guns are is the first step in confiscation, how else could you control a country the size of the USA? Just like every dictatorship in history, first disarm the local population, give them the stuff to keep them alive (just barely)then have them work for you while you collect all their wealth. & Txgoatlady–If I remember correctly the ryme was “This is my Rifle-This (holding his crotch) is my Gun, This (his Rifle ) is for fighting & this is for Fun.( Viet Nam era vet.)

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    • bizzybuzzerComment by bizzybuzzer
      February 5, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

      Asking Congress if they own guns is rather worthless in that there are so many Felons. But while your at it ask if the vote counts are for real, and when Holder will be confessing. Stuff like that, then just poo poo the answers. Best just stay away from the new Secretary of State.

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  3. Pingback: Who Owns Guns in Congress

  4. suzy2Comment by suzy2
    February 5, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

    Gun Control is a lot of bull. Over 17,000 people are killed each year by drunk drivers. Where is the control on Alcohole and back ground checks? A Obama kissers need to take their reports and shove them. They will not get our guns!

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    • clarkentComment by clarkent
      February 5, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

      Under the Dems thinking towards gun control, we must now take cars away from everyone because of the drunk drivers. This gun control controversy is smoke screen to distract from what else this administration is doing.

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  5. jenerseaComment by jenersea
    February 5, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

    You know damn well that the ones that don’t own guns have their families and properties guarded by people who do have guns. This is all about contol of the citizens and nothing more. Just like the other items, enforce the laws on the books that you Obozo, have sworn twice to do. Don’t put other laws on the books in an effort to cover what your real agenda is about.

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  6. bulletfish2013Comment by bulletfish2013
    February 5, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

    It adds more drama that way, if it’s a weapon it sounds more evil than a gun. They all do it, I was watching Alaska State Troopers
    the other evening and one of their guys was checking duck hunters in a area where there were some houses way off in the background. The narrator says he has to check them to make sure a stray bullet doesn’t hit any of the houses. C’mon, they were 100′s of yards away, they don’t use bullets, they use shells, with tiny little pellets in them that wouldn’t go much farther that 80 yards, and the kill zone might be 50 yards with a perfect hit. Tell me they don’t know better, National Geographic, knows better. But for ratings and to make the troopers job sound scary and dangerous they say things that simply are not true.

    It’s this kind of never ending assult from the media, TV shows and the politicians themselves that will sway the minds of people that simply don’t know. And yes, they know it very well!

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  7. Pingback: Who owns guns in Congress? - ALIPAC

  8. bowieknife5Comment by bowieknife5
    February 5, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

    We live in a world that applauds leaders who are driven not by truth or personal responsibility, but who are slaves to their dark desires and ambitions. If anyone can see the truth through the disgusting disguises of these depraved leaders, it will be in spite of the self-serving media’s efforts to promote and, indeed, exploit naive Americans whose sense of right and wrong has been influenced by redolent icons in the entertainment industry as well as godless politicians. Wake up, people! There is a danger in living this pandemonium, this boiling cauldron of evil without grasping the truth and turning away from the lies. Our great nation has only begun the polarization process; the saddest part is yet to come. Pray that common sense will emerge and that truth will prevail before it is too late!

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  9. rhaidComment by rhaid
    February 5, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

    Who cares what a congressman owns. The point is what they want to take away from YOU. I urge everyone to watch how they vote on any gun control bills. They are laying the ground work for a registration and confiscation scheme, If you don’t believe me pick up a history book.

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  10. maximusprime1Comment by maximusprime1
    February 5, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

    Ever since ObamaCare got stuffed down our throats and the FREE govt STUFF from “O” arrived with a vengeance I have said USA needs a divorce from the Progs/Liberals in order to survive.
    States should be able to pick a side liberals (blue) or conservative (red). If you live in the state you have to abide with that states rules and laws.
    Reds can do whatever they want in their state BUT they can’t even VISIT the blue states, we don’t want them infecting us with the liberal FREE STUFF somebody else gotta pay for them forever attitude.
    All the free stuff has to be paid for by each state. Red states pay for what red people want and blue states pay for what the blue people want.
    The blue states can have/give away all the FREE goodies they want but they gotta pay for it themselves, NO blue $, red uses their money.
    They can do dope, make all the babies, do whatever they want in their bedrooms, let all the felons and people out of jail/prison all they want in the red states. There will be photo id cards and enforcement at all the borders to keep libs out.
    There is no other way out. Reds demand and force blues to to too many things these days:
    - abortion on DEMAND via OCare anywhere any time any hospital
    - the patient relationship with doctors has been destroyed
    - doctors are moving and leaving hospitals in drives while many hospitals will close their doors once OCare kicks in
    - the keep your doctor and hospital were lies
    - Ocare will cost $20,000 per family when kicks in fully. This is from a IRS publication check it yourself at:
    http://www.irs.gov/PUP/newsroom/REG-148500-12%20FR.pdf
    - expose our kids to gay lifestyle in grade school some in 1st grade even kindergarten
    - take all guns away so the bad guys can romp and stomp the GOOD guys, check Chicago for proof.
    The list is much longer.
    “O” and the present condition of the nation has changed everything. The Oman’s use of brute force and the ease at which the Dems violated their oath of office and fell into line for OCare, including exec orders and dept regulations for what they can’t get congress to pass.
    For 200 years USA worked as a nation but NOW the “O” blitzkrieg has show Dems/Progs for what they are, dictators that have been waiting in the wings for the right moment to change America into the Liberal Nirvana of HELL.

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    • dalehComment by daleh
      February 5, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

      To All–

      Just by seeing how the man in the picture is holding the weapon, shows he knows nothing about shooting—I have never shot skeet in my life , but usally in ther opictures Ihave seen of them shooting the weapon is elevated much more—of course the man could have been very slow in picking up the clay pigeon in his sights and was firing at it on the ground–lol–or maybe it was nailed to a tree so it would holsd still for him –

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  11. wedeyComment by wedey
    February 5, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

    I thought when you are skeet shooting, you are shooting up in the air. It looks like he was shooting straight ahead.
    Just another phony picture like he is.

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  12. leithel1Comment by leithel1
    February 5, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

    Members of Congress who say they own a gun are the honest ones who don’t need a permit check. They are the members of congress who’s guns will be confiscated first. Members that refuse to admit to having a gun are the ones like the criminals that refuse to sign up for a gun permit. No one will even know they have guns until the revolution.

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  13. gopuc12450Comment by gopuc12450
    February 5, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

    Someone help me here. Did the gun barrel blow-out or does that thing shoot around corners?

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    • blogengeezerComment by blogengeezer
      February 10, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

      There are suppressors that have gas ‘ports’ to counteract the natural uplift of the barrel upon firing. The strange thing is the profuse smoke in the image. It also is difficult to capture the exact moment of discharge, unless high resolution and framing during high speed filming, not commonly used in casual photography. Modern ‘smokeless’ powder is the commonly used load in this modern day. Muzzle loaders on the other point, ‘smoke’ exactly like that.

      That shotgun definitely has Not been identified as a muzzle loader firing smoky black powder. This now classic image appears as a ‘Photoshop’ media ‘confirmation’ opportunity to sway voters. Does anyone over 70, remember seeing the propaganda image of ‘Mao’ during his day, ‘swimming’ with his ‘administration’? Historically many things Never ‘Change’, no matter how much some agenda driven people ‘Hope’.

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  14. middlegroundComment by middleground
    February 6, 2013 @ 10:56 am

    How many of those who don’t own guns are protected by security people who do own them? Seems like the poll was incomplete.

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  15. tps12Comment by tps12
    February 6, 2013 @ 11:34 am

    With so many liars in congress its hard to say what they own.

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  16. vevaComment by veva
    February 10, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

    WHY are so many of the mass shooters/killers on legally prescribed mind-altering drugs? WHY are there 7 million school kids on these drugs? “A Compromised Generation” by Beth Lambert will surprise you! WHY isn’t there a Congressional hearing on this? Blame the guns but don’t ask about the underlying reason for the shooting/knifing/suicides, etc..

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    • blogengeezerComment by blogengeezer
      February 10, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

      Veva is correct. DR Breggin (you tube testifying before Congress) and Dr Healy have released countless documents attesting to the ‘Prescribed Drug’ culture now overwhelming the USA. Every child that has Any problem is now diagnosed as ADHD and immediately prescribed Psychotropic Drugs to ‘alter their mind’. This ‘fix it pill’ mentality sweeping the USA, sets the children, the ‘most easily mind altered’ (Dr Healy), up for their future life of drug Addiction and dis-functionality.

      The ‘Pill for Everything’ experimental society is being diabolically created while being ignored for agenda driven reasons. Over 4% of US society is now diagnosed as bipolar (manic depressive) at any given time. The Greek word is Pharmacia and reference to it’s Addictive consumption is even described in the Greek translation of the Bible.

      To be rendered by a govt determined to Control, ‘defenseless and helpless’ at a time when 4% of our leaders and their bureaucrats are possibly ‘bipolar’ is suicidally foolish.

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