Reuters Poll: Most Americans Support Right to Use Deadly Force in Self Defense

The shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has almost everyone across the country doing a gut check on how they feel about one’s fundamental right of self-defense.

People are asking themselves the following questions: Should citizens have the right to use deadly force against a home invader?  Should citizens be allowed to carry a concealed firearm?  Should self-defense rights extend beyond the home to public places?  Should citizens help to prevent crime or should they leave it to police?

While politicians and pundits, radio and TV personalities, attempt to answer those questions for us, Reuters and Ipsos actually polled everyday Americans to see what they had to say on the issues of self-defense, self-defense outside the home, concealed carry, crime prevention and other gun-related topics.

The online poll found that most Americans support one’s fundamental right of self-defense, even if it involves the use of deadly force or occurs outside one’s home.

According to the Reuters article, “eighty-seven percent of respondents – with high numbers among both Republicans and Democrats – supported the use of deadly force to protect themselves from danger in their home.”

Moreover, “two-thirds said they backed laws permitting the use of deadly force to protect themselves in public.”

“Americans do hold to this idea that people should be allowed to defend themselves and using deadly force is fine, in those circumstances,” Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson told Reuters. “In the theoretical … there’s a certain tolerance of vigilantism.”

gun law support pie graph

The poll also found that almost half of those surveyed believed crime rates are rising, despite the reality that violent crime has decreased over the past 4 ½ years, according to FBI statistics (on a tangential note, self-defense laws – like ‘Florida’s Stand Your Ground’ law – were enacted around the country beginning in 2005-06).

“People’s perception of crime always over-represents reality,” said Jackson. “I think that indicates the mind frame that the American public is in – there’s always a constant low-level worrying about street crime.”

Consequently, “85 percent of those polled said they did not believe police could stop all crime and 77 percent felt regular people had to “step up” to help prevent crime from happening.”

As for the issue of concealed carry, 75 percent of those polled supported a law-abiding citizen’s right to get a CCW permit, with only 13 percent in opposition.  The remaining respondents were ‘unsure.’

nra opinion survey chartHowever, contradicting these responses were results related to specific places where firearms may be banned.  That is, 62 percent opposed bringing firearms into churches, workplaces or stores (perhaps, respondents should check out his article: Concealed Carry Permit Holder Stops Shooter at Church).

Additionally, the poll asked respondents about limiting the sale of automatic weapons and requiring background checks before one is allowed to purchase a firearm.  Roughly three-quarters supported a law that would further restrict access to automatic weapons and 91 percent supported mandatory background checks.

Lastly, the poll gave a big bump to the National Rifle Association.  Eighty-two percent of Republicans saw the pro-gun organization in a positive light as well as 55 percent of Democrats, findings that run counter to the perception that the NRA is widely disliked.

“Regardless of how others try to distort our position, the general public knows where we stand,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, told Reuters. “It shows the failure of the continuing efforts of many to try and discredit the National Rifle Association.”

The poll surveyed 1,922 people nationwide, which included 650 Republicans, 752 Democrats and 520 independents (1289 Caucasians, 219 African Americans and 267 Hispanics).  It was conducted online, from April 9th – 12th, 2012.

(Link to poll: here)

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