Several pistols displayed close up at the 2022 NRA Annual Meeting
Several pistols displayed close up at the 2022 NRA Annual Meeting / Stephen Gutowski

Poll: Spike in Reported Gun Ownership, Support for Gun Control

Yet another poll has identified a sizable jump in the number of people who report having a gun in the home.

42 percent of Americans report having either a handgun, pistol, revolver, shotgun, or rifle in their home. That’s according to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the end of last month but released on Tuesday. The number reporting a gun in the home represents a seven-point jump from the last time the same pollsters asked in March of 2019.

The findings are just the latest to identify a boost in reported gun ownership following the nearly two-year sustained period of record-level gun purchasing in 2020 and 2021. A separate survey conducted just by NORC in March of 2022, using a similar polling sample but asking a slightly different polling question, found that 46 percent of Americans report having a gun in the home.

But while that survey documented an emerging consensus against stricter gun control laws, the new UChicago/ AP-NORC poll finds 71 percent of respondents are now in favor of stricter gun laws. That marks an all-time high for the survey and a 10-percentage point increase since the Associated Press and NORC began polling the question together in October 2017. It is also up 19 points from the all-time low AP identified in a 2013 poll conducted by a different pollster.

It also found 59 percent support for a nationwide ban on the sale of AR-15s and other similar semi-automatic weapons, an eight-point jump from just two months earlier when a May 2022 poll found 51 percent support. The AP poll is one of the only ones to find an increase in support for banning AR-15s even in the wake of the Uvalde elementary school shooting. It came just after the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported civilians own more than 24.4 million AR-15s and AK-47s  and as the House of Representatives passed the first ban on sales of those guns since 1994. The ban faces an uphill battle in the Senate, and similar state and local bans have come under increasing scrutiny since the Supreme Court handed down its Bruen decision in June.

The poll identified broader public support for measures to restrict who can legally purchase guns. It showed that 85 percent want background checks to be extended to all gun purchases. The respondents also offered similar support for preventing mentally ill people and those convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns, something the Gun Control Act already does.

While the poll documented a rise in support for stricter gun policies across the board, it also found strong majority support for protecting gun rights. 60 percent of respondents told pollsters it was very important to protect the ability of people to own guns for personal protection, and 54 percent of respondents said it was very important to protect the right to own guns.

“The American public is more supportive of policies limiting who can purchase guns than policies banning the sale of certain types of guns,” David Sterrett, a senior research scientist with The AP-NORC Center, said in a press release. “The findings also highlight that about half of Americans have intersecting priorities with gun policies, and they don’t see a direct conflict between protecting gun ownership and implementing policies to prevent gun violence.”

The potentially contradictory findings mark an interesting collision between two well-understood phenomena in gun polling. Polls have routinely found that gun owners strongly support protecting gun rights. Meanwhile, public support for gun control has historically tended to spike in the aftermath of mass shootings.

The poll was conducted from July 28 to August 1 after several high-profile active shooter incidents in places like Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park. 88 percent of respondents said preventing mass shootings was extremely or very important.

The poll also hinted at a nationalized focus on the problem of gun violence. Three-quarters of respondents called gun violence a major problem, and 80 percent said it was getting worse across the entire United States. Only 66 percent told pollsters they thought it was increasing in their state, and just 39 percent said the same in their local community.

Black Americans were much more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to say that they or someone they know has been a victim of gun violence. 54 percent of blacks said so, compared to 27 percent of Hispanics and 13 percent of whites.

“The poll highlights that gun violence has touched the lives of many Americans, especially Black and Hispanic Americans, and there is significant public concern about this,” Jens Ludwig, a professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, said.

When asked about political affiliation, 44 percent identified as Democrats, 39 percent Republicans, and 17 percent independents. Urban residents made up 23 percent of respondents, something pollsters said represents a “higher rate than their proportion of the population for reasons of analysis.” Suburban residents comprised 56 percent of the sample, followed by rural residents at 21 percent.

The poll sampled 1,373 adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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