The Pew Research Center has new data on Americans’ views on guns and gun violence.
The numbers offer insight into the enduring legacy of the Second Amendment. They also reveal why the debate over the right to keep and bear arms isn’t going anywhere.
According to Pew, 30% of all Americans own a gun. A further 11% live in a household with someone who owns one. As you might expect, there’s a gender gap, a partisan divide and a chasm between people living in rural areas versus city dwellers. That said, the sale of guns to first-time buyers has risen dramatically during the pandemic. Preliminary data showed that 20% of 2020 record-breaking gun sales came from nearly five million new gun owners.
As far as the primary purpose for owning a firearm, gun owners most commonly cite personal safety. However, respondents also gave secondary reasons, from enjoying hunting to having a service weapon in their line of work.
Let us know in the comments below if you’ve purchased a gun recently and why!
The Pew Research Center reports:
Around half of Americans (48%) see gun violence as a very big problem in the country today, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 2021. That’s comparable to the share who say the same about the federal budget deficit (49%), violent crime (48%), illegal immigration (48%) and the coronavirus outbreak (47%). Only one issue is viewed as a very big problem by a majority of Americans: the affordability of health care (56%).
Another 24% of adults say gun violence is a moderately big problem. About three-in-ten say it is either a small problem (22%) or not a problem at all (6%).
Debate Over Root Causes
While the Biden administration considers guns themselves the root of the problem, its opponents have a different view. They cite reports that police officers don’t believe politicians have their backs. Without consistent public support, officers in crime-riddled cities like Baltimore say they don’t feel empowered to act decisively. Detractors also point to George Soros’ effective strategy of electing progressive prosecutors to transform the criminal justice system. (RELATED: Proposal to Eliminate Police Department Has Minneapolis on Edge)
While this new crop of district attorneys defends the defund the police movement and, in some cases, outright declines to prosecute suspects in high-profile violent crimes, crime continues to rise.
Like the controversy swirling around the causes of gun violence, answerers had varied responses for how to deal with the problem.
Roughly half of Americans (53%) favor stricter gun laws, a decline since 2019, according to the Center’s April 2021 survey. Smaller shares say these laws are about right (32%) or should be less strict (14%). The share of Americans who say gun laws should be stricter has decreased from 60% in September 2019. Current opinions are in line with what they were in March 2017.
Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, views have shifted. Republicans are currently more likely to say gun laws should be less strict (27%) than stricter (20%). In 2019, by comparison, a larger share of Republicans favored stricter gun laws than less strict laws (31% vs. 20%). Both years, roughly half of Republicans said current gun laws were about right.
Room for Compromise?
At the same time, the survey suggests there is some bipartisan agreement, in theory, on gun policy proposals, but broad support evaporates when specifics enter the discussion. For example, 85% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats surveyed support the idea of restricting mentally ill individuals from owning guns.
So what do you think? Is it ever permissible to take someone’s guns away if a family member or psychiatrist claims they’re a danger to themselves or others? Tell us in the comments below and while you’re at it, let us know what gun-related content you’d like to see next!