Americans mostly favor broad gun control, poll shows

The Associated Press released this week a sprawling survey that explored public opinion on more than a dozen topical policies involving guns in the U.S. as well as their influences.

According to the results, Americans favor broad gun control measures and a limited right to gun ownership, but also support greatly loosening some restrictions. While most believe it’s the government’s job to enforce gun laws, there’s little trust in political leadership to adequately do it.

The newswire partnered with polling company GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications to conduct the survey July 7-11. The sample size included 1,009 people older than the age 18. Of which, gun owners made up 35 percent — a percentage within range of most major surveys.

Topical issues

Pollsters asked respondents about more than a dozen specific gun policies commonly discussed in mainstream politics, ranging from expanded background checks to assault weapons bans to national reciprocity.

  • 73 percent favor requiring federal background checks for gun buyers at gun shows and other private sales, 10 percent oppose, and 13 percent are neutral.
  • 53 percent favor a nationwide ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, 25 percent oppose, and 18 percent are neutral.
  • 32 percent favor a requirement that gun makers design firearms that are difficult to reload, 32 percent oppose, and 32 percent are neutral.
  • 57 percent favor banning AR-15 rifles and similar semi-auto weapons, 25 oppose, and 15 percent are neutral.
  • 18 percent favor banning handguns, 59 percent oppose, and 20 percent are neutral.
  • 43 percent favor allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence, 18 percent oppose, and 35 percent are neutral.
  • 73 percent favor prohibiting individuals on government terror watch lists from buying guns even if they have not been charged or convicted of a crime, 10 percent oppose, and 13 percent are neutral.
  • 65 percent favor making adults criminally liable if their guns are accessed by children and used to harm themselves or someone else, 14 percent oppose, and 18 percent are neutral.
  • 40 percent favor requiring gun owners to buy insurance in case someone is accidentally or intentionally injured using their gun, 31 percent oppose, and 26 percent are neutral.
  • 43 percent favor a government program to let people voluntarily sell their guns to reduce the number of privately owned firearms, 20 percent oppose, and 33 percent are neutral.
  • 23 percent favor a government program requiring people to sell their guns to reduce the number of privately owned firearms, 20 percent oppose, and 33 percent are neutral.
  • 21 percent favor making gun makers and sellers liable if a gun they produce or sell is used in a crime, 56 oppose, and 21 percent are neutral.
  • 53 percent think federal law should recognize state-issued concealed carry permits as valid in all U.S. states, including those with stricter gun laws, and 44 percent disagree.


The poll shows opinions on political leaders currently involved in the debate on guns with few approving of the current administration’s handling of gun control issues and even fewer trusting party frontrunners.

Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the way President Barack Obama is handling gun laws, a marginal change from 61 percent in December. However, 39 percent approve of his efforts.

More people trust Hillary Clinton to handle gun laws than Donald Trump, but only by two percentage points. Thirty-five percent trust her whereas 33 percent trust Trump. Yet, 23 percent trust neither.

As for the National Rifle Association, 37 percent express a favorable opinion of the organization and an equal amount say unfavorable. Following that same thread, 42 percent think the NRA has too much influence on Congress, 38 percent think its influence is just right, and 17 percent think it’s too little.

A majority, 55 percent, think think the federal government is responsible for establishing laws regarding owning, making and selling firearms whereas 42 percent think it should be left up to state and local governments.

In the next year, with a new president, 47 percent think gun laws will be more strict, 47 percent think they will remain the same, and 4 percent think they will become less strict.

Guns and crime

A majority express concern about becoming a victim of gun violence, few worry about becoming a victim of a mass shooting, most people think guns will protect them from becoming a victim, and a majority think law enforcement should crack down on gun crimes.

Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed are concerned they or someone they know might be a victim of gun violence and 41 percent are not.

Twenty-two percent are concerned about being a victim of a mass shooting, 38 percent are not, and 38 percent were neutral.

Sixty-two percent thinks owning a gun protects them from becoming a victim of crime whereas 35 percent thinks it puts their safety at risk.

Seventy-three percent think authorities should crack down on people who own guns illegally should be a priority, and 81 percent think authorities should crack down on people who sell guns illegally.


Gun laws are an important issue to most Americans, according to survey results, and more people want the government to pass stricter laws.

For 82 percent of Americans gun laws are an important personal issue, a figure up from December by one percentage point.

Fifty-five percent think gun laws do not infringe on the public’s right to bear arms whereas 43 percent think they do. Interestingly, thoughts on gun laws as infringements have steadily shifted in opposite directions.

  • In December, 46 percent thought it did and 50 percent thought it didn’t;
  • in 2013, 51 percent thought it did and 41 percent thought it didn’t;
  • and in 2009, 55 percent thought it did and 40 percent thought it didn’t.

Sixty-four percent think gun laws should be more strict, 23 percent think they should be left alone, and 11 percent think they should be less strict.

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