Gun owners, non-owners agree on these proposals

A man shows his support for several hundred high school students from the Washington area as they rallying in front of the White House to protest against the National Rifle Association and to call for stricter gun laws April 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Gun owners and people who don’t own firearms often agree on their support for new gun regulations, a survey shows.

The survey, which measured support for 24 different proposed gun policies, found minimal gaps in support between gun owners and non-owners on 15 of those policies.

“Policies with high overall support among both gun owners and non-gun owners may be the most feasible to enact,” says lead author Colleen Barry, “and some have strong evidence to support their ability to reduce gun violence.

“Widespread claims that a chasm separates gun owners from non-gun owners in their support for gun safety policies distracts attention from many areas of genuine agreement—areas that can lead to policy solutions and result in the prevention of gun violence,” says Barry, chair of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For the 2017 survey, researchers used the National Opinion Research Center’s AmeriSpeaks online panel, designed to be representative of the US population. The sample included 2,124 adults (602 gun owners, 1,522 non-gun owners).

As reported in the American Journal of Public Health, in 2016, firearms were responsible for more than 38,000 US deaths and 116,000 nonfatal gunshot wounds treated in US hospitals.

Particularly in the wake of recent school shootings and mass shootings in Las Vegas and elsewhere, Americans continue to debate measures at both the state and federal levels that seek to address gun violence.

The proposals covered in the survey with the highest overall support and minimal support gaps between gun owners and non-owners were:

  • Universal background checks before gun purchases (support from 85.3 percent of gun owners and 88.7 percent of non-gun owners)
  • License suspension for gun dealers who cannot account for 20 or more guns in their inventory (82.1 percent of owners, 85.7 percent of non-owners)
  • Higher safety training standards for concealed carry permit holders (83 percent of owners, 85.3 percent of non-owners)
  • Improved reporting of mental illnesses for background checks (83.9 percent of owners, 83.5 percent of non-owners)
  • Gun prohibitions for people subject to temporary domestic violence restraining orders (76.9 percent of owners, 82.3 percent of non-owners)
  • Gun violence restraining orders, commonly referred to as extreme risk protection orders or Red Flag laws (74 .6 percent of owners, 80.3 percent of non-owners)

The survey did find several areas of greater disagreement between owners and non-owners, though several of those proposals still had majority support even from owners.

Nine of 24 policies covered in the survey had greater than 10 -point support-gaps, including:

  • Requiring that a person lock up guns in the home when not in use to prevent access by youth (support from 58 percent of gun owners and 78.9 percent of non-owners)
  • Giving police and the public information about gun dealers that sell the most guns later used in crimes (62.9 percent of owners, 73.4 percent of non-owners)
  • Requiring a person to obtain a license from local law enforcement before buying a gun (63.1 percent of owners and 81.3 percent of non-owners)
  • Allowing cities to sue gun dealers when there is evidence that the dealer’s practices allow criminals to obtain guns (66.7 percent of owners, 77.9 percent of non-owners).
Survey: 54% of gun owners break gun safety rules

Two questions on concealed carrying were new in the 2017 survey.

  • As many as 42.6 percent of gun owners but only 19.3 percent of non-gun owners believed a person who can legally carry a gun should be allowed to bring that gun onto K-12 school grounds.
  • But both 83 percent of gun owners and 85.3 percent of non-owners believed that a person who can legally carry a concealed gun should have to pass a test demonstrating they can safely handle the gun in common situations they may encounter.

“There is data supporting the efficacy of many of the policies with wide support among both gun owners and those who don’t own guns,” says coauthor Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Americans have ‘complicated’ views on guns

“Relatively few states have these laws in place. This signals an opportunity for policy makers to enact policies which are both evidence-based and widely supported.”

Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Smart Family Association funded the work.

Source: Johns Hopkins University