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Americans' Recent Attitudes Toward Guns
Gallup Blog

Americans' Recent Attitudes Toward Guns

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Americans are reeling from two mass shootings that have occurred within 10 days of each other in the U.S., an intense gun control debate has reignited across the country.

In the first incident, on May 14 in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store, 10 Black adults were murdered; and in the second, on May 24 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, at least 19 children and two adults were killed. In both cases, the accused murderers were 18-year-old men who used AR-15-style rifles in the attacks that they reportedly purchased legally.

Gallup's most recent polling about guns was conducted in October 2021 and January 2022. Both polls found a slight decrease in support for stricter gun laws compared with the prior year's measures. Typically, Americans' support for stricter gun laws has risen in the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings and fallen during periods without such events. Additionally, changes in the party of the president may also influence preferences for gun laws.

Here are some key takeaways from recent polling:

Support for Stricter Gun Laws:

  • In October 2021, Americans' support for stricter gun control fell five percentage points from October 2020 to 52%, the lowest since 2014.

  • The decline in support for stricter gun laws was owing mostly to a 15-point plunge among independents. Democrats' desire for more restrictive gun laws ticked up six points to 91% and Republicans' was essentially unchanged, at 24%, after dropping 14 points in 2020.

  • Gallup has measured public support for a complete ban on handguns in the U.S. for all but the police and other authorized persons since 1980. Over that period, support has not exceeded 43% and has been below 30% since 2008. The latest reading found 19% favoring such a ban in October, down six points from 2020 and the all-time lowest on record.

  • Political independents were also behind last year's decline in support for a handgun ban. Fourteen percent of independents thought there should be a ban on handguns, which marks a 16-point drop since 2019, including nine points since 2020. Even fewer Republicans, 6%, favored such a ban, compared with 40% of Democrats.

Satisfaction With Gun Laws:

  • In January of this year, the percentage of Americans very satisfied with the nation's laws or policies on guns dropped from 20% saying they were "very satisfied" to 13%. An additional 28% were "somewhat satisfied," while 19% were "somewhat dissatisfied" and 37% "very dissatisfied."

  • A follow-up question to those who were dissatisfied found that far more preferred that laws be more strict than less strict.

  • Republicans were largely satisfied with gun laws in January (62%), while 21% were dissatisfied and preferred that they be more strict. At the same time, 20% of Democrats were satisfied, and 71% were dissatisfied and wanted laws to be more strict. Independents were less satisfied (43%) than dissatisfied (53%), with those dissatisfied twice as likely to prefer laws that are more strict rather than less strict.

Gun Ownership:

  • In October, a steady 44% of Americans said they had a gun in their household, including 31% who said they personally owned a gun.

  • Sharply more U.S. gun owners today than in the 2000s say they own a gun for protection against crime. Eighty-eight percent of gun owners cite crime protection as a reason they own a gun, compared with two-thirds giving this reason in 2000 and 2005 surveys.

Gallup's full trends on the issue can be found on the Guns trend page.

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