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Public Opinion About Gun Policies

NCJ Number
Future of Children Volume: 12 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer/Fall 2002 Pages: 155-163
Tom W. Smith Ph.D.
Date Published
9 pages
This document discusses the level of support by the public for gun control measures.
Public opinion polling data from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) were used. The NORC General Social Survey currently polls 3,000 Americans regarding their attitudes on social issues. From 1996 to 1999, NORC also conducted an annual National Gun Policy Survey. General gun control consists of policies to regulate the manufacture and sale of guns, including police permits, background checks, waiting periods, or licensing and registration for all gun owners. Women, residents of large cities and their suburbs, liberals, and Democrats are most likely to support general gun control measures, whereas men, residents of rural areas, conservatives, and Republicans are least likely to support such measures. The second type of gun control measure, gun safety, consists of policies designed to make guns safer and less accessible to unauthorized users such as children, and measures to establish consumer product safety standards for guns. The results were generally the same as with general gun control data. Regarding policies that restrict criminals’ access to guns, most Americans wanted to keep guns out of the hands of criminals -- even those convicted of misdemeanors -- and to punish the criminal misuse of guns. American adults were asked their opinions regarding gun control policies designed to prevent children and youth from using firearms. Americans strongly supported measures to restrict youth access to guns and reduce school violence. But they opposed measures to ban guns from households with children. There was little difference between the opinions of parents and non-parents on gun control issues. Most Americans opposed outright bans or severe limits on gun ownership. 5 tables, 18 endnotes