March 12, 2013

Why Own a Gun? Protection Is Now Top Reason

Section 1: Views of Stricter Gun Laws

Overall, the public sees both positive and negative consequences from stricter gun laws. 3-12-13 #5By 54% to 43%, more agree that stricter gun laws would reduce the number of deaths caused by mass shootings. However, by comparable margins, the public also says that stricter gun laws would make it more difficult for people to protect their homes and families (by 58% to 39%) and give too much power to the government (57% to 40%).

On several of these issues, the public’s views have changed since the early 1990s. For example, the percentage saying stricter gun laws would cut down on the number of accidental deaths caused by guns is 15 points lower today than in a December 1993 Gallup survey (52% now, 67% then).

3-12-13 #6And reflecting the focus on protection in other questions, 58% now say stricter gun laws would make it more difficult for people to protect their homes and families; in 1993, 48% expressed this view. There has been less change over the past two decades in opinions about whether stricter gun laws would give too much power to the government (57% now, 52% in 1993) and whether gun control will lead to laws that will take away guns from all citizens (47% now, 50% then).

There are wide partisan differences over possible consequences of stricter gun laws, and in most cases the gaps are much wider than they were 20 years ago. No more than about a third of Republicans agree that stricter laws would reduce the number of deaths from mass shootings (29%) or accidental gun deaths (32%), or would keep guns out of the hands of criminals (31%). More than seven-in-ten Democrats agree with each of these assertions.

Republicans’ views about whether stricter gun laws would reduce the number of accidental gun deaths have changed markedly over the past two decades. In the 1993 Gallup survey, 61% of Republicans agreed that stricter gun laws would reduce the number of gun deaths caused by accidents and suicides; in the current survey, which asks only about accidental gun deaths, just 32% of Republicans agree. Among independents, fewer also now agree that stricter gun laws would cut down on the number of accidental gun deaths than did so in 1993 (47% now, 64% then). Democrats’ views are little changed (74% now, 76% then).

A larger percentage of Republicans also agrees that stricter gun laws will make it more difficult for people to protect their homes and families than did so in 1993 (77% now, 55% then). And 76% of Republicans agree that stricter gun laws would give the government too much power over average citizens; in 1993, 61% expressed this view.

Republicans’ views about whether stricter gun laws would lead to seizure of all guns have shown less change since 1993: 63% agree with that assertion today, while 54% agreed 20 years ago. Half of independents (50%) and just 34% of Democrats say that stricter gun laws would eventually result in laws taking guns away from all citizens, which are about the same as opinions 20 years ago.

Men and Women Differ Little over Effects of Gun Laws

3-12-13 #7The gender differences in opinions about the impact of stricter gun laws are modest, and in some cases much narrower than they were two decades ago.

Nearly six-in-ten women (58%) and 50% of men say stricter gun laws would reduce the number of deaths from mass shootings. The differences are comparable over whether stricter gun laws would reduce accidental gun deaths (56% of women, 47% of men).

In 1993, 76% of women said stricter laws would reduce the number of accidental gun deaths and suicides caused by guns. Men’s opinions have shown less change since then (56% in 1993, 47% today).

More women say that stricter gun laws would give the government too much power over average citizens than did so 20 years ago: Currently, 55% of women say stricter gun laws would give the government too much power; 45% expressed this view in 1993. Men’s opinions are unchanged (59 % agree).

Majorities of both men (61%) and women (56%) say stricter gun laws would make it more difficult for people to protect their homes and families. In 1993, 50% of men and 47% of women said tougher gun laws would make protection more difficult. Nearly half of men (49%) and 45% of women say stricter gun laws will eventually lead to all guns being taken away, which is little changed from the 1993 survey.