U.S. adults are evenly divided over whether gun ownership does more to increase safety by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, or more to reduce safety by giving too many people access to firearms and increasing misuse (49% each).
This question highlights the sharp contrasts between partisans over the role of guns in society: 79% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that gun ownership does more to increase safety, while a nearly identical share of Democrats and Democratic leaners (78%) say that it does more to decrease safety.
Gun owners and non-owners also are divided. Among the 32% of adults who say they personally own a gun, 71% say that gun ownership increases safety. Among the 65% of adults who do not own a gun, just 37% say the same. A majority of non-owners (61%) say that gun ownership does more to decrease safety.
There are also large divisions among Americans based on community type.
Among those who say they live in urban areas, 64% say gun ownership makes people less safe, while 34% say it does more to increase safety. Among those who live in rural areas, these shares are roughly reversed: 65% say gun ownership does more to increase safety, compared with 33% who say it does more to decrease safety.
Those who report living in suburban areas are about as likely to say that gun ownership increases safety (51%) as to say it decreases safety (47%).
(About half of Americans – 49% – say they live in suburban areas, while roughly a quarter report living in either rural (26%) or urban areas (24%). For more on self-reported community type, read our publication, “Evaluating what makes a U.S. community urban, suburban or rural.”)
Majority of Americans say gun laws should be stricter
Views on whether gun laws in the United States should be stricter, less strict, or are about right have fluctuated modestly in recent years. Currently 58% say gun laws should be stricter, while 26% say laws are about right and 15% say they should be less strict.
Two years ago, 53% favored stricter gun laws. In 2019, 60% said laws should be stricter.
Demographic differences in views of gun policy have been stable in recent years. A majority of women (64%) say that gun laws should be stricter than they are today, compared with 51% of men.
Roughly three-quarters of Black (77%) and Asian adults (74%) say this, compared with 68% of Hispanic adults and 51% of White adults.
Younger adults are somewhat more likely to support stricter gun laws than older adults, though majorities across age groups favor stricter laws.
There also are educational divides on this issue: 72% of adults with a postgraduate education say that gun laws should be stricter, compared with 52% of adults with a high school degree or less formal education.
As in recent years, Republicans who identify as moderate or liberal are more likely to favor stricter gun laws than those who describe themselves as conservatives.
Roughly four-in-ten moderate or liberal Republicans (42%) say that laws should be stricter, while 40% say current laws are about right and 17% say they should be less strict. Among conservative Republicans, just 19% say laws should be stricter, while 33% say they should be less strict and 48% say current laws are about right.
Large majorities of Democrats across ideological groups say that gun laws should be stricter than they are today: 92% of liberal Democrats and 81% of conservative or moderate Democrats say this.
Americans who live in urban communities are substantially more likely than those who live in rural communities to favor stricter gun laws.
People who don’t own guns are about twice as likely as gun owners to say that gun laws should be stricter: 71% of non-owners say this, compared with 35% of gun owners. By contrast, gun owners are roughly twice as likely as non-owners to say that current laws are about right (39% vs. 20%) and about three times as likely to say that gun laws should be less strict (26% vs. 8%).
Within each party, there are divisions in the opinions of those who own guns and those who do not. Roughly four-in-ten Republicans who don’t own guns (41%) say that gun laws should be stricter, compared with just 15% of Republican gun owners. Republican gun owners are more likely than non-owners to say that current laws are about right (49% vs. 41%) or that they should be less strict (35% vs. 17%).
While large majorities of Democratic gun owners (73%) say that laws should be stricter, Democrats who don’t own guns overwhelmingly hold this view (89%).