73% Favor Some Restrictions on Firearms Sales/Ownership; 16% Favor No Limitations

Gun in his hand. Exhibition and sale of weapons

New York, N.Y. – U.S. Adults across political lines agree that Americans should be entitled to purchase and/or own firearms, but they also agree that some level of restriction is reasonable:

  • Over seven in ten Americans (73%) – including two-thirds of Republicans (68%) and three-fourths of Democrats and Independents (75% each) believe Americans should be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms, with some restrictions.
    • Two-thirds (68%) of those with at least one firearm in their household also agree with this.
  • Only 16% believe Americans should be allowed to do so without limitation, including a quarter (24%) of Republicans, about one in ten Democrats (9%), and 16% of Independents.
  • Fewer still, roughly one in ten (9%), believe Americans should not be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms, including 7% of Republicans, 15% of Democrats and 9% of Independents.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,252 adults surveyed online between December 9 and 14, 2015. Interviews were conducted prior to President Obama’s recent series of executive actions on firearms.

Supporting safety

When presented with a list of measures related to firearm purchases and ownership and asked how strongly they would support or oppose each, majorities support each of the measures tested.

  • Vast majorities support background checks for all firearm (90%) and ammunition (77%) sales – including those conducted online or at gun shows.
    • More specifically, nearly seven in ten strongly support such checks for firearm sales (69%) while nearly six in ten say the same for ammunition sales (58%).
  • Nearly nine in ten (88%) support requiring that all buyers pass a firearm safety class, including six in ten (61%) strongly supporting this.
  • Over eight in ten (82%) support requiring owners to use a lock or safe for storage when firearms are not in use; nearly six in ten (58%) strongly support this.
  • Seven in ten (71%) support establishing a national registry of firearm owners; half (50%) strongly support such an initiative.
  • Roughly two-thirds support outlawing fully automatic firearms (66%) and limiting magazine sizes (also 66%); 45% and 40%, respectively, strongly support these.
  • A slimmer majority (55%) – though a majority nonetheless – support limiting the number of firearms an individual can own (34% strongly so).

It’s worth noting that, with the exception of limiting the number of firearms an individual can own, majorities across party, generation and gender lines agree with all these measures; the same is true among those with at least one firearm in their home.

Though Americans support these safety initiatives that focus responsibility on the owners and sellers, fewer see gun manufacturers as sharing responsibility: fewer than four in ten (38%) agree that manufacturers should hold some degree of responsibility when their products are used to commit a crime.

  • It’s worth noting that a majority of Democrats (56%) agree that manufacturers should be at least partly responsible, while three in ten Independents (31%) and a quarter of Republicans (25%) feel this way.

Attitudes toward gun control

A 49% plurality of Americans favors stricter gun control, with 22% favor less strict gun control and 21% say it should neither be tightened nor loosened.

Support for stricter gun control has been in decline for years: 69% supported stricter gun control in 1998, ebbing gradually to 45% in 2010. 2014 saw the first growth on record, to 51%, but the most recent data’s slight drop to 49% indicate that this may have been only a temporary change in trajectory.

  • Three-fourths of Democrats favor stricter gun control (74%); nearly half (47%) of Independents agree, but only 26% of Republicans.
  • Just under three in ten Republicans (28%) and roughly a quarter of Independents (24%) feel it should be neither stricter nor less strict; roughly one in ten Democrats indicate the same.
  • Meanwhile, a 36% plurality of Republicans supports less strict gun control (as do 22% of Independents and 10% of Democrats).
    • This marks a considerable shift from 2014, when Republicans were split evenly between feeling gun control should be stricter, should be less strict, or should remain the same (30% each).
  • Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans also feel laws relating specifically to the control of hand guns should be stricter, while 22% say they should be less strict and 21% say neither.

Election issue?

Three-fourths (74%) of Americans agree – 34% strongly so – that Presidential candidates’ positions on firearms will be an important factor in who they vote for. Though this point of view spans the political spectrum, it’s reasonable to expect that which specific views they’re looking for a candidate to support will vary by party.

Good guys with guns

Looking to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre’s oft-echoed statement, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” – Six in ten Americans (61%) agree with this sentiment, including eight in ten (80%) Republicans. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Independents and 44% of Democrats also agree.

 

TABLE 1a

FIREARMS OWNERSHIP BELIEFS

By Trend, Political Party & Political Ideology

“Which of the following most closely fits with your beliefs?”

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Nov 2014

Dec 2015

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Americans should be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms, without limitation.

14

16

24

9

16

24

14

11

Americans should be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms, with some restrictions.

77

73

68

75

75

70

77

68

Americans should not be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms.

9

11

7

15

9

7

9

21

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 1b

FIREARMS OWNERSHIP BELIEFS

By Generation & Gender

“Which of the following most closely fits with your beliefs?”

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Guns in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Americans should be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms, without limitation.

16

19

18

14

12

22

11

26

9

Americans should be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms, with some restrictions.

73

67

71

77

82

67

78

68

77

Americans should not be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms.

11

14

11

9

6

10

11

7

14

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 2

FAVOR STRICTER OR LESS STRICT GUN CONTROL

By Trend, Political Party & Gender

“In general, would you say you favor stricter gun control, or less strict gun control?”

Base:  All Adults

1998

1999

2000

2004

2008

2010

2014

2015

Political Party

Gender

Guns in HH

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Stricter

69

63

63

52

49

45

51

49

26

74

47

44

54

35

60

Less strict

23

25

28

22

20

26

17

22

36

10

22

27

17

34

13

Neither*

7

10

6

20

21

20

23

21

28

11

24

24

19

26

18

Don’t know/Refused

1

2

4

7

10

10

8

8

9

5

6

4

11

6

9

*There was a change in the question in 2004.  In the previous surveys “neither” was not offered as a possible response but was accepted if given.  In this new survey it was offered as a possible response.

Note:  Percentages may not add to 100% because of rounding

 

TABLE 3

FAVOR STRICTER OR LESS STRICT CONTROLLING HAND GUNS

By Trend, Political Party, Gender & Guns in Household

“In general, would you say you favor stricter or less strict laws relating to the control of hand guns?”

Base:  All Adults

1998

1999

2000

2004

2008

2010

2014

2015

Political Party

Gender

Guns in HH

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Stricter

76

73

72

57

54

50

52

49

27

74

44

43

54

35

60

Less strict

19

20

20

18

18

23

17

22

37

8

23

27

17

33

13

Neither*

5

5

6

19

18

19

22

21

26

12

25

23

18

25

17

Don’t know/Refused

*

2

2

6

10

8

9

8

10

6

8

6

11

7

10

*There is a change in the question in 2004.  In the previous surveys “neither” was not offered as a possible response but was accepted if given.  In this new survey it was offered as a possible response.

Note:  Percentages may not add to 100% because of rounding.

 


TABLE 4a

SUPPORT OR OPPOSE FIREARM PURCHASE & SAFETY PROPOSALS

Summary Grid

“How strongly would you support or oppose each of the following measures related to firearm purchases and ownership?”

Base: All adults

 

Support (NET)

Strongly support

Somewhat support

Oppose (NET)

Somewhat oppose

Strongly oppose

%

%

%

%

%

%

Background checks for all firearm sales, including those conducted online or at gun shows

90

69

20

10

5

5

Require that buyers pass a firearm safety class

88

61

27

12

6

6

Require that owners use a lock or safe for storage when firearms are not in use

82

58

24

18

10

8

Background checks for all ammunition sales, including those conducted online or at a gun show

77

58

20

23

10

13

A national registry of firearm owners

71

50

20

29

12

18

Outlawing fully automatic firearms

66

45

21

34

18

15

Limiting magazine sizes

66

40

26

34

16

17

Limiting the number of firearms an individual can own

55

34

21

45

19

26

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4b

SUPPORT FIREARM PURCHASE & SAFETY PROPOSALS

Summary of “Support” Selections by Political Party & Political Ideology

“How strongly would you support or oppose each of the following measures related to firearm purchases and ownership?”

Base: All Adults

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Background checks for all firearm sales, including those conducted online or at gun shows

90

87

94

87

84

91

93

Require that buyers pass a firearm safety class

88

81

94

86

82

90

90

Require that owners use a lock or safe for storage when firearms are not in use

82

71

91

82

72

86

89

Background checks for all ammunition sales, including those conducted online or at a gun show

77

66

89

74

66

80

87

A national registry of firearm owners

71

55

89

64

56

74

82

Outlawing fully automatic firearms

66

54

82

64

53

69

81

Limiting magazine sizes

66

55

83

59

51

70

81

Limiting the number of firearms an individual can own

55

35

75

52

38

57

72

 


TABLE 4c

SUPPORT FIREARM PURCHASE & SAFETY PROPOSALS

Summary of “Support” Selections by Generation, Gender & Guns in Household

“How strongly would you support or oppose each of the following measures related to firearm purchases and ownership?”

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Guns in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Background checks for all firearm sales, including those conducted online or at gun shows

90

88

88

92

92

86

93

86

93

Require that buyers pass a firearm safety class

88

86

86

89

91

84

90

83

91

Require that owners use a lock or safe for storage when firearms are not in use

82

84

81

80

85

77

87

74

88

Background checks for all ammunition sales, including those conducted online or at a gun show

77

81

75

75

75

69

84

65

86

A national registry of firearm owners

71

75

70

69

62

63

77

62

77

Outlawing fully automatic firearms

66

63

59

72

78

62

70

56

74

Limiting magazine sizes

66

62

62

70

78

61

71

56

74

Limiting the number of firearms an individual can own

55

60

52

54

47

50

59

39

67

 

TABLE 5a

AGREE/DISAGREE WITH FIREARM STATEMENTS

Summary Grid

“How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?”

Base: All adults

 

Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

%

%

%

%

%

%

Presidential candidates’ positions on firearms will be an important factor in who I vote for.

74

34

40

26

17

9

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

61

34

28

39

16

23

Gun manufacturers should hold some degree of responsibility when their products are used to commit a crime.

38

18

20

62

23

38

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 5b

AGREE WITH FIREARM STATEMENTS

Summary of “Agree” Selections by Political Party & Political Ideology

“How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?”

Base: All Adults

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Presidential candidates’ positions on firearms will be an important factor in who I vote for.

74

76

75

71

75

72

77

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

61

80

44

65

82

62

32

Gun manufacturers should hold some degree of responsibility when their products are used to commit a crime.

38

25

56

31

25

41

52

 

TABLE 5c

AGREE WITH FIREARM STATEMENTS

Summary of “Agree” Selections by Political Party & Political Ideology

“How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?”

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Guns in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Presidential candidates’ positions on firearms will be an important factor in who I vote for.

74

77

72

72

76

73

75

77

72

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

61

60

60

61

69

63

60

73

53

Gun manufacturers should hold some degree of responsibility when their products are used to commit a crime.

38

44

38

34

33

38

38

30

45

 


TABLE 5d

DISAGREE WITH FIREARM STATEMENTS

Summary of “Disagree” Selections by Political Party & Political Ideology

“How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?”

Base: All Adults

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Gun manufacturers should hold some degree of responsibility when their products are used to commit a crime.

62

75

44

69

75

59

48

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

39

20

56

35

18

38

68

Presidential candidates’ positions on firearms will be an important factor in who I vote for.

26

24

25

29

25

28

23

 

TABLE 5e

DISAGREE WITH FIREARM STATEMENTS

Summary of “Disagree” Selections by Political Party & Political Ideology

“How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?”

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Guns in HH

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Gun manufacturers should hold some degree of responsibility when their products are used to commit a crime.

62

56

62

66

67

62

62

70

55

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

39

40

40

39

31

37

40

27

47

Presidential candidates’ positions on firearms will be an important factor in who I vote for.

26

23

28

28

24

27

25

23

28

 

TABLE 6

GUNS IN HOUSEHOLD

“Do you, or does anyone else in your household, own a gun?”

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

%

Yes (NET)

43

          Yes, I do

29

          Yes, someone else in my household

20

No

57

 

 


TABLE 7

PERCEIVED AS SUPPORTED/NOT SUPPORTED BY SECOND AMENDMENT

 “Please read the following passage: ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’ Now, for each of the following, please indicate whether you feel the passage does or does not support it.”

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Supports this

Does not support this

A state militia’s right to own firearms

%

73

27

Any citizen’s right to own firearms

%

70

30

A state’s right to form a militia

%

66

34

A state’s right to regulate firearm ownership among its citizens

%

54

46

A state’s right to regulate the ownership of firearms among its militia

%

54

46

The federal government’s right to regulate state militias

%

46

54

The federal government’s right to regulate who can own firearms

%

44

56

A private citizen’s right to form a militia

%

40

60

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between December 9 and 14, 2015 among ,2252 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #2, January 13, 2016

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll