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Why Are Americans Buying So Many Guns?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Law-abiding Americans are buying guns at a record pace, and most tell us it’s for self-defense. Democrats, however, are far more likely than others to believe it is too easy to buy a gun these days.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that nearly one-out-of-four Americans (23%) say they or someone in their immediate family has bought a gun in the past year. Seventy percent (70%) have not, but six percent (6%) aren’t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Sixty-six percent (66%) believe self-defense is the main reason most people purchase a gun. Just five percent (5%) think they make such a purchase to commit a criminal act, while one percent (1%) say it’s for job purposes. Twenty-two percent (22%) say most people buy a gun for some other reason.

Forty-four percent (44%) of Americans think it is too easy to buy a gun in this country. Only 11% say it’s too hard, but 36% consider the level of difficulty about right.

A closer look finds that 64% of Democrats believe it is too easy to buy a gun in the United States, but only 28% of Republicans and 36% of those not affiliated with either major political party agree. Still, 21% of Democrats say they or someone in their immediate family has bought a gun in the past year, compared to 29% of Republicans and 20% of unaffiliateds.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of Americans with a gun in their household feel safer because someone in that household owns a gun

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The survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on April 11-12, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Voters still tend to oppose stricter gun control, perhaps in part because few think tougher gun laws will reduce the level of violent crime in this country. 

Americans in nearly every demographic category strongly agree that most people purchase a gun for self-defense. Few think they have a criminal act in mind.

Men are more likely than women to say there’s a new gun in their immediate family. Women feel more strongly that it is too easy to buy a gun in America.

Senior citizens are the least likely to say they or someone in their family has bought a gun recently and are the strongest believers that it’s too easy to purchase one.

Whites are slightly less likely than blacks and other minority Americans to report the purchase of a gun in the past year. Blacks are the most likely to say most buy a gun for self-defense.

Americans with children in the home are twice as likely to have a new gun in the family as those who don’t have children living with them.

Among those who say they or an immediate family member has bought a gun in the past year, only 24% think the process is too easy; 53% say the level of difficulty is about right. But 54% of those who don’t have a new gun around say it’s too easy to buy one.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of all Americans oppose a plan in their community like one being considered in several major cities that would pay criminals up to $1,000 a month not to kill someone with a gun

Just 22% of voters would feel safer living in a neighborhood where nobody was allowed to own a gun over one where they could have a gun for their own protection. Sixty-eight percent (68%) would feel safer in a neighborhood where guns are allowed.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) think it would be bad for America if only government officials such as the police and military personnel were allowed to have guns. Only 34% believe laws regarding the ownership of guns should be the responsibility of the federal government.

Most voters have long believed that the government needs to do a better job enforcing the gun laws already on the books.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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