NEW YORK, NY -- Large majorities of Americans feel that they should be allowed to have guns. At the same time, pluralities of Americans favor stricter control of guns, particularly hand guns, although this number has decreased significantly in the past few years.
These are some of the findings of a Harris Poll® survey of 2,503 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010 by Harris Interactive.
Specifically, other important findings from the survey include:
-- A plurality of adults (45%) favor stricter gun control and 26% favor less strict gun control. However, the percentage who favors stricter gun control has decreased since 2008 when a 49% to 20% plurality felt this way;
-- Concerning control of hand guns, half (50%) of adults favor stricter laws and a quarter (23%) favor less strict laws. These percentages have also changed since 2008 when a 54% majority favored stricter laws relating to the control of hand guns;
-- Most Republicans and Americans who own guns favor less strict laws controlling guns and hand-guns. Conversely, most Democrats and those who do not own guns favor stricter control of guns and hand guns.
A third of adults (32%) acknowledge that they have a gun at home today, translating into approximately 42 million households (based on about 130 million households). Among those who have a gun at home:
-- Three-quarters (74%) have a rifle or shot-gun
-- Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) have a hand-gun
-- Almost 1 in 5 (17%) have a semi-automatic weapon
-- Nearly 1 in 10 (8%) have another type of gun.
Large majorities of U.S. adults think that Americans should be allowed to have rifles or shotguns (80%) and hand-guns (74%). Fewer, but still substantial numbers, think that unconcealed (or "open carry") weapons (50%) and concealed weapons (45%) should be allowed. Significant minorities also think that Americans should be permitted to have an unlimited number of guns (38%) and semi-automatic weapons (30%).
-- Not surprisingly, gun owners are much more likely to think that Americans should be allowed to have guns. For example, nine out of ten gun owners think people should be allowed to have rifles (91%) or hand-guns (90%). Two-thirds think that "open carry" weapons should be allowed.
-- However, there is an important exception. Over nine in ten (92%) adults feel that those on the FBI "terrorist watch list" should not be allowed to buy gun. Even as American citizens, only a slightly smaller percentage (87%) think those on the FBI terrorist watch list should not be allowed to buy guns in the U.S.
When The Harris Poll showed wording from the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment—the clause often cited by gun enthusiasts as the legal justification for owning guns—Harris Interactive found:
-- By 43% to 13%, a three to one plurality believes that the Second Amendment supports an individual's right to bear arms, rather than a state's right to form a militia. Interestingly, three in ten (31%) feel the Amendment supports both, and 8 percent say the Amendment supports neither.
-- By political party affiliation, Republicans, by 53% to 6%, believe the Second Amendment supports individuals' right to bear arms. Democrats also agree, though by a closer 38% to 19% margin.
-- Independents are similar, with 44% to 13% stating that the amendment supports an individual's right to bear arms.
-- Among gun owners, a majority (51%) feels the amendment supports an individual's right to bear arms and only 7% do not feel this way.