Survey Shows Not Much Divide Between Gun Owners, Non-Owners After All

BALTIMORE — Gun reform remains one of the most divisive topics among Americans when it comes to federal policies. It turns out that divide may not actually be as wide as one might believe, particularly between gun owners and those who prefer to keep them out of their homes.

A recent national public opinion survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that, when it comes to most political stances and proposals on gun regulation in the United States, there’s a wide swath of common ground between gun owners and non-gun owners. The consensus was for tighter gun control policies.

Protesters rally for gun reform
A new survey shows that, when it comes to most political stances and proposals on gun regulation, there’s a wide swath of common ground between gun owners and non-gun owners.

Conducted in January 2017, the survey found overwhelming support for most gun-control policies being proposed. The survey presented 24 different gun control policies to 2,124 American adults, 602 of which were gun-owners. The researchers found that 15 of the 24, or 63 percent, were supported by both unarmed Americans and gun-owners alike. On 23 of the 24 proposals, the majority of respondents supported gun restrictions or regulations. Some of the policies included mandatory background checks for all gun sales and the prohibition of gun sales to individuals with active restraining orders.

“Relatively few states have these laws in place. This signals an opportunity for policy makers to enact policies which are both evidence-based and widely supported,” explains lead author Colleen Barry, Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the university’s School of Public Health, in a release.

Overall, universal background checks for all gun sales, greater accountability for licensed gun dealers on lost or stolen firearms, and higher standards for applicants for concealed-carry permits were the most popular gun regulation measures.

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“Policies with high overall support among both gun owners and non-gun owners may be the most feasible to enact, and some have strong evidence to support their promise in reducing gun violence,” says Barry. “Widespread claims that a chasm separates gun owners from non-gun owners in their support for gun safety policies distract attention from many areas of genuine agreement.”

More than 38,000 people in the United States were killed with a gun in 2016, and more than 116,000 nonfatal gunshot wounds were treated in American hospitals.

The full study was published online in the American Journal of Public Health on June 6, 2018.

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