Most gun owners support certain gun control reforms
New NPR/Ipsos poll also shows deep distrust of government institutions, suggesting barriers to enacting gun control could exist
Washington, DC, July 8, 2022 -- A new NPR/Ipsos poll among American gun owners finds a majority favor enforcing universal background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase guns, and enacting red flag laws. Support among gun owners for raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and passing red flag laws mirrors that of American adults writ large. However, the poll also finds that while reforms are supported, there are potential roadblocks to implementation, namely a deep distrust of government. Moreover, when forced to choose, more favor protecting gun rights to controlling gun violence. However, like the public, attitudes toward guns are deeply dependent on the owner's partisan beliefs.
1. There is bipartisan support for most of the gun control measures asked about.
- More than eight in 10 (84%) gun owners — regardless of partisanship — support universal background checks for all gun sales, including those at private sales and at gun shows.
- Gun owners and the American public writ large support raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 (72% and 75%, respectively) and red flag laws (65% and 70%, respectively).
- Finally, there is majority support among gun owners to raise the minimum age to buy any kind of gun from 18 to 21 (67%) and to design schools so that there is only one entrance that is guarded by armed police officers (66%).
- However, an outright ban on AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles fails to garner majority support (42%) among gun owners.
2. Gun owners deeply distrust government institutions. Tension between enacting gun control, and what that means for the right to own guns exists.
- Few gun owners trust their state government (38%), Republicans (35%) and Democrats (20%) in Congress, and the federal government (23%) to look out for their best interests.
- When forced to choose, 56% of gun owners say it is more important to protect gun rights than control gun violence.
- A narrow majority (53%) of gun owners agree that passing new gun control laws is a slippery slope toward taking away all guns.
- Just over six in 10 (61%) gun owners believe that new gun control laws won't do anything to stop mass shootings and roughly half (51%) say that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
3. As is the case with the broader public, one’s partisanship plays a large role in gun owners’ support for action around gun control.
- Far more Republican gun owners (79%) believe it is more important to protect gun rights than control gun violence versus Democratic gun owners (13%).
- There is broad support for banning the sale of AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles among Democratic gun owners (84%). Support drops off steeply among Republican (25%) and independent (45%) gun owners.
- Nearly three in four (73%) Republican gun owners say that passing new gun control laws is a slippery slope toward taking away all guns compared to just 16% of Democratic gun owners.
- Democratic and Republican gun owners alike say the primary reason they own firearms is to protect their family. However, on average, Republican gun owners report owning more guns than Democratic ones (8 guns vs. 3 guns).
This NPR/Ipsos Poll was conducted June 15-21, 2022, using the probability-based KnowledgePanel®. This poll was based on a nationally-representative probability sample of total American adults 18+ who are gun owners (n=1,022), Republican Americans 18+ who are gun owners (n=445), Democrat Americans 18+ who are gun owners (n=183), and Independent Americans 18+ who are gun owners (n=389).
The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.
The survey was conducted in English only. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region by Metropolitan status, household income, and Party ID. The needed benchmarks were obtained from the 2021 March Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS), except for Party ID, which was obtained from ABC News as of June 3, 2022.
The weighting categories were as follows:
- Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50+)
- Race-Ethnicity (White/Non-Hispanic, Black/Non-Hispanic, Other/Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, 2+ Races/Non-Hispanic)
- Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West) by Metropolitan Status (Metro, Non-Metro)
- Education (Less than High School, High School, Some College, Bachelor or higher)
- Household Income (under $25K, $25K-$49,999, $50K-$74,999, $75K-$99,999, $100K-$149,999, $150K and over)
- Party ID (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Something Else/Other)
The margin of sampling error among the total sample is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level (Republicans: 5.0, Democrats: 7.8, Independent: 5.8). The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.18 percentage points for all respondents (Republicans: 1.15, Democrats: 1.17, Independent: 1.14). The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.
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