Study: Most Americans oppose carrying firearms in public

Most Americans oppose carrying firearms in public places, according to a study published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

From a survey of 3,949 adults, a group of public health researchers found that fewer than 1 in 3 respondents supported carrying guns in public places such as college campuses, government buildings, schools, bars and places of worship.

In a summary of the study, The Trace reported that even a majority of the gun owners surveyed did not support carrying guns in schools or bars.

“That’s an important finding because it goes against the general trend of what lawmakers are doing,” said Julia Wolfson, a professor of public health at the University of Michigan and one of the study’s co-authors.

Researchers from Harvard, Northeastern, Johns Hopkins, and Michigan asked people if guns should be carried in nine public places: restaurants, schools, college campuses, bars, government buildings, sports stadiums, retail stores, service settings and places of worship.

The survey was conducted in 2015 by GfK, a market research company, on behalf of the researchers. The survey reportedly oversampled for veterans and gun owners and specifically asked if respondents owned a gun or lived in a house where a firearm was present.

Of those surveyed, only 9.4 percent said they thought guns should be allowed in all nine public places. More than 30 percent of respondents said guns should be allowed in restaurants, retail stores and service settings.

Support was higher among gun owners for carrying in public places. Most gun owners said they supported carrying firearms in restaurants, retail stores, and service settings. However, only 1 in 4 gun owners approved of carrying guns in bars, and only 1 in 3 thought guns should be allowed in schools.

Deborah Azrael of Harvard and Matthew Miller of Northeastern, two of the study’s co-authors, conducted a similar study in 1999. When comparing the two studies, they found respondents have generally become more accepting of guns in public places.

The authors found it difficult to account for the growing support of carrying firearms in public.

“It’s the $64,000 question,” said Azrael. “What’s happened in the past 15 years? Many more laws have made it possible to carry guns anywhere. More people own handguns than did in the past. It wouldn’t surprise me if they also wanted to carry them more places.”