Survey: Gun owners and non-owners think alike when it comes to background checks

A majority of Americans who own guns and those who do not each support background checks for private gun sales, according to a survey released Thursday.

The Pew Research Center polled 3,930 adults in April and May about their attitudes toward and experiences with firearms. While the divide on policy issues appears wider than ever on most points — banning “assault-style” weapons and high capacity magazines, allowing concealed carry in more places and arming teachers — the two groups unite on the background check question.

About one-third of those surveyed identified as gun owners, Pew said, and of those, 77 percent said background checks should be required for private sales and at gun shows. Some 87 percent of non-owners agreed.

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents from each group also agreed on banning “the mentally ill” from buying guns.

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.

Of those owners who identify as Republican or lean right, 70 percent support expanded background checks. Some 88 percent of Democrat or lean left owners agree.

The survey found gun owners’ partisan leanings also coincide with certain behaviors and ideological attitudes about the Second Amendment.

“Republican handgun owners are more likely than their Democratic counterparts to say they carry their gun with them, even if only some of the time (63 percent vs. 45 percent),” Pew said. “Fully 55 percent of Democrats who own a handgun say they never carry.”

The survey found Republican owners twice as likely — 91 percent to 43 percent — to say owning a gun is “essential to their freedom.”

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the poll results should worry the National Rifle Association, which continues “to oppose popular gun safety policies like background check laws and pushes to dismantle permitting standards for who can carry a hidden, loaded gun in public.”

“Overall, these results are another encouraging sign for the overwhelming majority of us who know we can do more to reduce the unacceptable rates of gun violence we have in this country,” Watts said Friday.

The NRA did not respond to Guns.com’s request for comment Friday.