Public Opinion

Myth: Gun owners are a tiny minority

PUBLIC OPINION - Tighter Restriction On Buying or Owning Guns and Effectiveness on CrimeFact: The Federal government once estimated that there were well over 65 million gun owners in the U.S. and more than 50% were handgun owners. 1 This number is generally considered low due to the reluctance of many to admit to a government agency that they own a gun.  Other estimates indicate that between 41% and 49% of U.S. households are gun-owning households.

Fact: 43% of Americans claim that they own a gun. 2

Myth: People do not believe that the Second Amendment is an individual right

Fact: A Gallup survey confirms that 73% of Americans believe the 2nd Amendment “guarantees” the right to keep guns, and that a mere 20% believe it exists to enable state militias. 3

Fact: Surveys show that “52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.” 4 The split was 29% to 66% in 1999, showing that approval of Second Amendment protections is growing.

Fact: A Zogby poll 5 conducted after the big gun control initiatives of the year 2000 concluded that 75% of Americans believe the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. In the same year ABC determined the rate to be 77%. 6

Myth: Most Americans favor gun control

Cause of Gun Violence %
The way parents raise their children 45%
Popular culture 26%
Availability of guns 21%
Other 6%
No opinion 2%

Fact: A CNN/ORC poll has 52% opposing more gun control, and a mere 46% who support it. 7 This agrees with a 2006 Rasmussen survey that found 52% of Americans did not believe more gun control is needed. 8

Fact: A 2014 Gallup Poll showed that fewer than half of Americans favored stricter gun control, which extended a long-term trend. Barely more than a quarter favor banning handguns (rendered a moot point by the 2008 Heller Supreme Court decision). 9

Fact: Americans believe that parents and popular culture are more responsible for violence in America than firearms.

Yes No
Should the U.S. have stricter gun control laws? 6.73% 92.25%
Do you believe that allowing people to carry concealed weapons reduce crime? 92.22% 7.76%
Do you believe that U.S. cities should sue gun manufacturers to recoup money spent dealing with gun-related crime? 1.96% 98.01%
How would you rate the effectiveness of the Brady Bill and the “assault weapons” ban in preventing the illegal use and distribution of guns? 0.52% Very effective
3.79% Somewhat effective
6.19% Somewhat ineffective
87.27% Not at all effective
2.23% Don’t know
Time Magazine, survey of 33,202 adult Americans,1998

Fact: A 1999 survey by the Associated Press showed:

  • A plurality (49%) felt enforcing existing laws was the key to reducing violent crime.
  • 52% felt that background checks did not help reduce the number of crimes committed with guns.

Fact: A 2000 Zogby telephone survey of 1,201 adults concluded that, by almost a two-to-one margin, Americans prefer enforcement of existing laws instead of new and tougher gun legislation to fight crime. The same poll found that 68% of the public disagrees with cities suing gun makers for the criminal misuse of guns.

Fact: A December 2000 Zogby poll of 1,028 American adults showed that they felt enforcing current laws was the “best way to solve gun violence in America.”

Fact: A January 2001 Zogby, American Values poll found that 66% of voters felt that the U.S. should spend more money enforcing current laws including mandatory jail time for those who commit a crime with a handgun, while only 26% felt there should be more gun control laws including mandatory gun locks.

How can gun violence be effectively prevented? People Percent
Stricter gun control laws 10,841 17.8%
Proper enforcement of current gun control laws 13,587 22.4%
Ban on handguns 8,008 13.2%
Stricter punishment for crimes involving guns 21,596 35.6%
Other 5,094 8.4%
Not sure 1,613 2.7%
AOL.com poll, March 2000

Fact: Only 39% believe stricter gun control is needed, down from 43% in an earlier poll. 10

Fact: An Associated Press poll in April 2000 showed 42% thought stricter enforcement was more likely to cut gun violence.  Only 33% said enacting tougher gun laws was better.

Fact: A survey in April 2000 by ABC News/Washington Post asked whether “passing stricter gun control laws” or “stricter enforcement of existing laws” is the best way to curb gun violence. Enforcement was preferred by 53% to 33%.

Fact: 58% percent of Americans believe better enforcement of existing laws “is a better way to reduce handgun violence” than new gun control laws. 11

Fact: A 1999 survey by CBS (hardly a pro-gun organization) found these responses:

  • Only 14% of Americans believe that gun control can prevent violence with guns.
  • 56% of people said enforcement of existing laws is the better way to reduce violent crime than new gun control laws.
  • Only 4% said gun control should be a top issue for the government.

Myth: More and more Americans support stricter gun control

Best Way To Reduce Gun Violence
Enforce existing laws 52%
Banning handguns 15%
Teach children self-control 15%
Additional congressional legislation 2%
Other 8%
Don’t know 2%
Zogby, December 2000

PUBLIC OPINION - Should Gun Control Laws Be More or Less Strict - TrendFact: The Gallup Poll has been asking Americans this question since 1990 and in the 16 years thereafter, the number supporting stricter gun control has fallen from 78% to 56%. 12

Fact: Twice as many Americans currently reject the idea of a handgun ban, though a majority favored such a ban in 1959. 13

Myth: People want to ban handguns

PUBLIC OPINION - Should Handguns Be Banned - TrendFact: Only 25% of Americans believe handguns should be banned from private ownership and this rate is down from 60% when polling began in the 1950’s. 14

Fact: Even a New York Times poll showed that citizens don’t want to ban so-called “assault weapons” by a 50/44 margin 15 though an ABC/Washington Post poll has the split at 53/45. 16 This is down from an 18/80 split in 1994.

Myth: People think gun control stops crime

Fact: Fifty-one percent of Americans think more gun control is more likely to make it harder for law-abiding citizens to purchase a gun rather than keep guns out of the hands of criminals, people with mental illness and suspected terrorists. Only 38% disagree. 17

Myth: People oppose concealed carry

Fact: 56% say more concealed weapons would make country safer. 18

Fact: Ignoring for a moment that 42 states have enacted “shall issue” concealed carry laws (and two more never bothered to outlaw concealed carry), 2009 survey showed 83% support concealed carry laws as they are commonly enacted. 19

Myth: Most people think guns in the home are dangerous

Fact: 57% of Americans believe guns “protect people from becoming victims of crimes” while only 38% believe that guns “put people’s safety at risk.” 20

Fact: Gallup poll concludes that 63% of Americans believe having a firearm in the home makes it safer. 21

Fact: Sixty-eight percent of Americans would feel safer living in a neighborhood where they can own a gun rather than one where no one could have a gun for their own protection. 22

Myth: People want local government to ban guns

Fact: Only 20% of people believe local gun control is permissible – 69% disagree. 23


Notes:

  1. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 1997
  2. Americans by Slight Margin Say Gun in the Home Makes It Safer, Gallup Poll, October 20, 2006
  3. Public Believes Americans Have Right to Own Guns, Gallup Poll,  May 27, 2008
  4. Growing Public Support for Gun Rights, Pew Research Center, December 10, 2014
  5. SAF survey of 1,015 likely voters, Zogby, June 2002
  6. ABC News, May 14, 2002
  7. Poll: More Americans oppose stricter gun control, CNN.com, October 2015
  8. Rasmussen Reports, February 19, 2006
  9. Less Than Half of Americans Support Stricter Gun Laws, Gallup Poll, October 2014
  10. Rasmussen Reports, October 05, 2009
  11. Portrait of America Survey, August 2000
  12. Americans by Slight Margin Say Gun in the Home Makes It Safer, Gallup Poll, October 20, 2006
  13. Americans by Slight Margin Say Gun in the Home Makes It Safer, Gallup Poll, October 20, 2006
  14. Gallup Poll Social Series: Crime, October 2013
  15. New York Times/CBS News Poll on Terrorism and the 2016 Race, December 10, 2015
  16. Most Now Oppose an Assault Weapons Ban, December 2015
  17. New York Daily News/Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, December 2015
  18. Majority Say More Concealed Weapons Would Make U.S. Safer, Gallup Poll, October 2015
  19. Zogby, August 4, 2009
  20. Growing Public Support for Gun Rights, Pew Research Center, December 10, 2014
  21. More Than Six in 10 Americans Say Guns Make Homes Safer, Gallop, November 2014
  22. Rasmussen Reports, June 2015
  23. Rasmussen Reports, October 05, 2009