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Americans by Slight Margin Say Gun in the Home Makes It Safer

Majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are slightly more likely to believe that having a gun in the home makes it a safer rather than more dangerous place to be. This is a change from previous years, when at least a plurality of the public has agreed that guns make a home more dangerous rather than safer.

Gallup's annual Crime Poll, conducted Oct. 9-12, also shows a majority of Americans continuing to say that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict rather than being made less strict or kept as they are now. This represents no basic change from previous polling.

Given a choice, a majority of Americans say that enforcing laws already on the books is a better approach than passing new laws in addition to enforcing old laws more strictly. About 4 out of 10 Americans report having a gun in the home at this point, particularly those living in rural areas and in the South.

Guns Make the Home Safer?

News reports recently focused on a new ordinance that was proposed by a city council member in Greenleaf, Idaho. The so-called Civil Emergencies Ordinance would -- among other things -- recommend gun ownership, along with ammunition and appropriate training, for each head of household who is legally eligible to own a gun. The ordinance is modeled after one enacted more than 20 years ago in Kennesaw, Ga., a town whose crime rate is reported to have dropped significantly after the new gun-ownership recommendations were put into law.

The new Gallup Poll suggests that the American public may see some wisdom in this type of approach to controlling crime.

A slight plurality of Americans now say that having a gun in the house makes it a safer, rather than more dangerous, place to be, marking a shift from the two previous times this question has been asked over the past six years.

Do you think having a gun in the house makes it -- [ROTATED: a safer place to be (or) a more dangerous place to be]?


Safer

More
dangerous

DEPENDS
(vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2006 Oct 9-12

47

43

7

3

2004 Oct 11-14

42

46

10

2

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

35

51

11

3

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Trend for Comparison: Which of the following comes closer to your view: having a gun in the house makes it a safer place to be because you can protect yourself from violent intruders or, having a gun in the house makes it a more dangerous place to be because you increase the risk from gun accidents and domestic violence?


Safer

More
dangerous

DEPENDS
(vol.)

No
opinion

1993 Dec 17-21

42%

52

5

1

(vol.) = Volunteered response

There has been only a slight change in responses to this question since 2004, but the change is more marked since 2000, when a bare majority said that having a gun in the house made it a more dangerous place to be.

There are differences in feelings on this issue by subgroup.

Do you think having a gun in the house makes it -- [a safer place to be (or) a more dangerous place to be]?


Safer

More
dangerous

DEPENDS
(vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

Total

47

43

7

3

Men

56

36

6

2

Women

39

49

9

3

East

41

49

5

5

Midwest

41

48

8

3

South

56

34

8

2

West

48

41

9

2

Urban

40

47

10

3

Suburban

45

46

6

3

Rural

63

28

8

1

Republican

53

35

9

3

Independent

50

41

6

3

Democrat

41

52

6

1

Gun in household

76

17

6

1

No gun in household

23

64

8

5

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Not surprisingly, gun owners are much more likely than those who don't own a gun to believe that having a gun makes the house safer. In addition, men, those living in the South, and those living in rural areas are more likely to agree with the "guns make the house safer" sentiment. (As will be made clear below, these groups are also most likely to own guns at this point.)

Gun Laws

Gallup has asked Americans 20 times over the last 16 years whether laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, made less strict, or kept as they are now.

In every instance, at least a majority has agreed that gun laws should be made more strict -- although the exact level of that sentiment has varied significantly. The high point for agreement with the "more strict" alternative came the first time the question was asked, in 1990, with 78% choosing that alternative. The low point was in October 2002, with only 51% agreement.

This year's 56% agreement with the "more strict" alternative is roughly average for the last five times the question has been asked since October 2003.

The pattern of support for stricter gun laws is what might be expected. Those most in favor of stricter laws include women (66% support for stricter gun laws), those living in urban areas (67% support), those with postgraduate educations (69%), liberals (70%), Democrats (72%), and those who do not have a gun in the home (70%).

The National Rifle Association has been linked with the position that the correct approach to limiting gun violence is to more fully enforce existing laws rather than creating new laws. The American public in general tends to agree with this position.

In terms of gun laws in the United States, which of the following would you prefer to see happen -- [ROTATE: enforce the current gun laws more strictly and NOT pass new gun laws (or) pass new gun laws in addition to enforcing the current laws more strictly]?

Enforce current
laws more
strictly

Pass new laws
in addition

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Oct 9-12

53

43

4

2002 Feb 8-10

60

38

2

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

53

45

2

2000 Apr 28-30 ^

51

44

5

^ Asked of a half sample

Gallup has asked this question four times, and in each instance, a majority has favored the "enforce current laws and don't pass new gun laws" position rather than the "pass new gun laws in addition to enforcing the current laws more strictly" alternative.

An analysis of responses to both of these questions shows that about one-third of those who say gun laws should be made more strict also say that enforcing existing laws is a better approach than passing new laws. This suggests some caution in interpreting survey data showing support for stricter gun laws, because at least some of that sentiment is apparently based on the assumption that this can be done without necessarily passing new laws.

A separate Gallup question asked about a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons.

Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?

Should be

Should not be

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Oct 9-12

32

66

2

2005 Oct 13-16

35

64

1

2004 Oct 11-14

36

63

1

2003 Oct 6-8

32

67

1

2002 Oct 14-17

32

65

3

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

36

62

2

1999 Apr 26-27

38

59

3

1999 Feb 8-9

34

64

2

1993 Dec 17-19

39

60

1

1993 Mar 12-14

42

54

4

1991 Mar 21-24

43

53

4

1990 Sep 10-11

41

55

4

1988 Jul 1-7

37

59

4

1987 Oct

42

50

8

1981 Jun

41

54

5

1981 Apr

39

58

3

1980 Dec

38

51

11

1980 Jan

31

65

4

1975

41

55

4

1965

49

44

7

1959

60

36

4

Two-thirds of Americans reject the idea of this type of law. This sentiment has been slightly higher in recent years than in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When this question was asked in 1959, on the other hand, 6 out of 10 Americans said they favored a law that would ban the possession of handguns.

Gun Ownership

Forty-three percent of Americans report having a gun in their homes in this most recent survey, representing little significant change from previous years.

Generally speaking, the percentage of Americans reporting that they have a gun in the home has fluctuated between a low of 34% in April 1999 and a high of 51% in October 1993.

Do you have a gun in your home?


Yes


No

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Oct 9-12

43

54

3

2005 Oct 13-16

40

59

1

2004 Oct 11-14

38

61

1

2003 Oct 6-8

43

56

1

2002 Oct 14-17

41

58

1

2001 Oct 11-14

40

59

1

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

39

60

1

2000 Apr 7-9

42

57

1

1999 Apr 26-27

34

64

2

1999 Feb 8-9

36

62

2

1997 Aug 22-25

42

57

1

1996 Nov 21-24

44

54

2

1996 Jul 25-28

38

60

2

1993 Dec 17-21

49

50

*

1993 Oct 13-18

51

48

1

1993 Mar 12-14

48

51

1

1991 May 16-19

46

53

1

1991 Mar 21-24

48

51

1

1990 Sep 10-11

47

52

1

1989 Feb 28-Mar 2

47

51

2

1985 Apr 12-15

44

55

1

1983 May 13-16

40

58

2

1980 Jan 2

45

53

2

1975 Oct 3-6

44

54

2

1972 May 23

43

55

2

1968

50

50

--

1965 Jan 7-12

48

52

--

1959 Jul 23-28

49

51

--

* Less than 0.5%

The pattern of gun ownership across subgroups of the American population follows predictable lines.

Do you have a gun in your home?

% Yes

Rural

60

Male 50+

58

South

56

$50,000 to <$75,000

54

Male

51

Conservative

51

$30,000 to <$50,000

49

White

48

Male 18 to 49

48

Republican

48

Independent

48

HS or less

47

Yes, children under 18

47

Aged 30 to 49

46

College grad

46

Moderate

46

Aged 18 to 29

44

Aged 65+

44

Suburban

44

AVERAGE

43

Midwest

43

Some college

43

Female 18 to 49

43

$75,000+

43

Aged 50 to 64

42

$20,000 to <$30,000

41

<$20,000

41

No children under 18

41

Female

36

West

36

Democrat

36

Postgrad

34

East

33

Urban

31

Female 50+

31

Nonwhite

26

Liberal

24

Older men, those living in rural areas, and those living in the South are most likely to report having a gun in the home in the October survey.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,001 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 9-12, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

18. In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?

More strict

Less strict

Kept as now

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2006 Oct 9-12

56

9

33

2

2005 Oct 13-16

57

7

35

1

2004 Oct 11-14

54

11

34

1

2004 Jan 9-11

60

6

34

*

2003 Oct 6-8

55

9

36

*

2002 Oct 14-17

51

11

36

2

2001 Oct 11-14

53

8

38

1

2000 May 5-7

62

5

31

2

2000 Apr 7-9

61

7

30

2

1999 Dec 9-12

60

10

29

1

1999 Aug 3-4

66

6

27

1

1999 Jun 25-27

62

6

31

1

1999 May 23-24

65

5

28

2

1999 Apr 26-27

66

7

25

2

1999 Feb 8-9

60

9

29

2

1995 Apr 23-24 ^

62

12

24

2

1993 Dec 17-19

67

7

25

1

1993 Mar 12-14

70

4

24

2

1991 Mar 21-24

68

5

25

2

1990 Sep 10-11

78

2

17

3

* Less than 0.5%

Gallup


Gallup http://news.gallup.com/poll/25090/Americans-Slight-Margin-Say-Gun-Home-Makes-Safer.aspx
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