By: Brady Campaign to Reduce Gun Violence and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner
The overheated rhetoric in Washington belies a broad consensus among voters and gun owners that it is possible to reduce gun violence in this country while protecting the Second Amendment. Voters and gun owners come together to support basic, common sense steps, such as strengthening background checks, expanding and promoting safety courses and training to improve responsible gun ownership, or increasing penalties for those who illegally traffic in guns, that can make a difference. Few voters we talked to believe additional gun laws will stop all gun violence in the country, but voters support taking steps that can address some of the violence. At the same time, few voters we talked to, including gun owners, believe any effort to strengthen gun laws is inherently a violation of the Second Amendment.
In contrast to the political discord they see in Washington and in some state capitals, gun owners and non-gun owners alike find common interest in promoting a culture of personal responsibility. Gun owners are among the first to recognize the responsibility that comes with the right to own a gun. Gun owners and non-gun owners alike also believe that, like other public safety threats including smoking and car crashes, we can reduce gun violence through research, education, and keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill.
This memorandum reflects key highlights from a national survey of 1,000 registered voters. This survey includes an oversample of 300 gun owners, bringing the total number of gun owners to 629. The survey was taken March 11-24, 2013. The overall margins of error is +/- 2.72 at 95 percent confidence interval. The margin of error for gun owners is +/- 3.91.
Voters and gun owners overwhelmingly believe that it is possible to reduce gun violence while protecting the Second Amendment.
An 83 percent majority of voters believe it is possible to protect the rights of Americans to own guns and protect people from gun violence at the same time. This includes 85 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of both men and women, 88 percent of liberals, 77 percent of conservatives as well as 85 percent of gun owners and 81 percent of non-gun owners.
Gun owners and non-gun owners find common ground.
Gun owners and non-gun owners recognize a common interest in creating a system that both reduces gun violence and protects individuals’ right to own a firearm. And they find common ground in the promotion of education, research, personal responsibility and efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and children. An 88 percent majority of both gun owners and voters agree, “People have the right to own a gun, but they also have the responsibility to educate themselves and be responsible gun owners. They should attend gun safety classes, have firearm insurance, educate others and keep their guns locked away until needed. The active participation of responsible, law-abiding gun owners can play a part in reducing gun violence” Similarly, 87 percent of voters and 85 percent of gun owners agree, “There are many causes of gun violence. While we may not be able to solve the entire problem or save every single life, there are solutions that can make a real difference. Republicans and Democrats, gun owners and those that do not own guns, parents and spouses, can come together to pass common ground solutions for gun violence than can save lives.”
Most voters want stronger gun laws.
By a 56 to 6 percent margin, voters prefer laws covering the sale of guns be made stronger rather than less strong. Another 36 percent believe these laws should be kept as they are now. Notably, nearly half (45 percent) of gun owners agree gun laws should be made stronger.
Strong support for basic steps to reduce gun violence.
As most public polling has made plain, strengthening background checks are simply not controversial outside of the halls of Congress, various state legislatures, and among K Street lobbyist. A 91 percent majority support requiring background checks on all gun purchases, 88 percent among gun owners. There are very few public policy questions with 91 percent support in this country, let alone a question subject to a filibuster threat. Voters and gun owners deliver similar levels of support for imposing new penalties for people who buy guns for convicted criminals who cannot purchase their own (83 percent favor among voters, 85 percent among gun owners).
A 53 percent majority of voters (47 percent among gun owners) are more likely to support a lawmaker who supports background checks on all gun sales. Just 9 percent are less likely (12 percent among gun owners).
The failure so far, at least at the federal level, to pass legislation to reduce gun violence four months after the tragedy in Newtown is a failure of politics. It is not a failure of the country to come together, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, and find consensus, but a failure of the country’s leadership to overcome its politics and pass legislation than can make a difference.