Despite some worrying trends in public polling data of late, at least one new finding should serve as a bright spot for gun rights supporters: guns remain an overwhelmingly popular tool for most of the country.
The Pew Research Center released its latest poll on gun ownership on Wednesday. Amidst examining the latest American attitudes on access to firearms, it uncovered a surprisingly receptive audience in non-gun owners. Nearly half of the non-gun-owning respondents surveyed by Pew said they could see themselves purchasing a firearm.
Additionally, the survey documented a shift in the number of Americans who report owning a firearm. While Pew has consistently found lower levels of gun ownership than other reputable pollsters like Gallup and the National Opinion Research Center, it did see a slight uptick this year in the number of respondents indicating that they own a gun or live in a household with someone who does. Pew’s newest poll found 32 percent of U.S. adults say they own a firearm, up two percentage points from a survey it conducted in 2021. Another 10 percent reported living with someone who owns a gun, for a total of 42 percent of American adults living in a gun-owning household.
Taken together, that means almost two-thirds of U.S. adults said they either own a gun currently or could see themselves buying one eventually.
That’s a substantial portion of the electorate indicating an openness to firearms ownership. And while the political preferences of gun owners are certainly not monolithic, data routinely shows that gun owners are far more likely than the rest of the population to oppose further gun restrictions. That means a sizeable population of non-gun-owning adults could become key political allies for a gun-rights movement willing to do the necessary outreach.
That becomes especially important for gun-rights advocates in light of the recent headwinds they’ve faced in the court of public opinion. A series of polls have found that “gun violence” has quickly rocketed up the list of concerns on voters’ minds in ways it has not in years past. That has manifested into rising support for stricter gun laws and even waning public sympathy for the need to defend gun rights.
Even this newest Pew poll was not all good news for gun-rights supporters. Though it found a large portion of the country is gun-curious, it also found that 61 percent of adults think it is too easy to buy one. Only 39 percent said the process is about right or too hard. Unsurprisingly, Democratic-leaners, urban residents, and non-gun owners were most likely to say it is too easy.
Nevertheless, the continued openness of a significant portion of Americans to become new gun owners despite—or perhaps even because of—a perception of rising “gun violence” presents an opportunity to counteract that trend.
Men who do not own a gun were far more likely than women who don’t own one to say they could see themselves buying a firearm in the future by a 56 percent to 40 percent spread. And while most current gun owners are white, black respondents were the most likely racial demographic to say they would consider becoming a first-time gun owner. Fifty-six percent of black non-owners said so, while only 48 percent of whites, 40 percent of Hispanics, and 38 percent of Asians said the same. Those figures track with real-world trends in recent years as black Americans have quickly become the fastest-growing demographic of new gun owners.
For all the talk of violent crime, anxiety over mass shootings, and a public souring on gun rights, a near supermajority of Americans are open to gun ownership. That’s a sizeable group of persuadables.
The inclination is there. It remains to be seen if it manifests into a new wave of gun buyers and if the gun-rights movement can broaden its tent.