Does the country's political divisiness mirror the country's attitudes toward gun control?

Claudine Rigal
Juin 24, 2017

Partisan divisions over gun policy proposals may reflect contrasting views among Republicans and Democrats on gun violence in the country today and on the impact of access to guns on crime and mass shootings. Residents in the Old Dominion State, where the National Rifle Association headquarters are located, also overwhelmingly back expanding background checks to all gun buyers, including at shows and on the internet, 91 to eight.

A Pew Research Center survey published Thursday looked at America's complex relationship with guns. At that time, 42 percent of Republicans said they "strongly opposed" strengthening firearms restrictions, compared to a third who said the same this year. 51% favored gun control and 47% favored gun rights. The poll found a similar gap when it asked people about suicide. 83% supported barring gun purchases for people on no-fly lists and 71% supported a federal database to track gun sales.

President Donald Trump has vowed to loosen restrictions on firearms, and has already taken a few steps to follow through on his campaign promise. He is seen as one of the most gun-friendly presidents and could be supported by a GOP-controlled Congress, although there has been little action on gun issues since January. And Republicans are skeptical that making it harder to legally obtain guns would have an effect on mass shootings: 54% say it would not make a difference, while 18% think restricting access to guns would lead to more mass shootings. Researchers found that Americans have broad exposure to firearms, whether they personally own one or not.

Other findings of the "America's Complex Relationship with Guns" survey included that 30 percent of respondents now owned a gun, 11 percent did not own a gun but lived with someone who does, and 57 percent lived in a household without any guns. A third of adults say they don't now own a gun and can't see themselves ever doing so.

And while both Republicans and Democrats are less likely to perceive gun violence as a big problem in their local community than in the nation as a whole, Democrats also are more likely than Republicans (54% vs. 31%) to say gun violence in their local community is a very or moderately big problem.

Almost two-thirds of Democrats (64%) say there would be fewer mass shootings in the USA if it were harder for people to legally obtain guns; only about a quarter of Republicans (27%) say the same. Still, just one-quarter of them said they usually carry a firearm outside the home.

When dividing owners by political affiliation, the support for denying gun ownership to those with mental illness holds strong across party lines: 88 percent of both Republican and Democrat owners support the prohibition.

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