Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Division Over Gun Control

As with many other current political issues, Americans are almost evenly split on the issue of gun control. In a summer 2010 Pew Research survey, half the public (50%) said it was more important to control gun ownership, while 46% said it was more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns. Also, as in many current political debates, a deep partisan divide separates views on gun control. Republicans strongly favor gun rights over gun control by a 70%-to-26% margin, while Democrats are almost as equally supportive of gun control over gun ownership by a 67%-to-30% margin. Independents mirror the nation as a whole, with 50% favoring gun control and 46% favoring gun rights. Support for gun ownership has risen in recent years. A spring 2010 Pew Research survey found an equal split on control versus gun ownership (46% vs. 46%), but that report also highlighted the growing support for gun ownership rights in the United States. In 1993, gun control was supported over gun rights by a 57%-to-34% margin. Support for gun control rose to 65% shortly after the tragic shootings at Columbine High School in May 1999, and was at 58% in April 2008. Since then, however, support for gun ownership has risen by nine points. Between 2008 and 2009, support for the right to own guns increased substantially among men — particularly white men — high school graduates, independents, and people living in the Midwest and South. The spring 2010 survey also found that more Americans say state and local governments should not be able to pass laws barring the sale of handguns in their jurisdictions, while 45% say they should be able to pass such laws. Read More