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May 6, 1999 Press Contact: William Harms
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Gun Owners, General Public Want Stronger Gun Laws, National Opinion Research Center Survey Shows

Results from a national survey indicate strong public support -- including substantial majorities among gun owners -- for legislation to regulate firearms, make guns safer, and reduce the accessibility of firearms to criminals and children. Key findings include:

*Three-fourths of gun owners support mandatory registration of handguns, as does 85 percent of the general public.

*Government regulation of gun design to improve safety gets support from 63 percent of gun owners and 75 percent of the general public.

*Two thirds of gun owners and 80 percent of the general public favor mandatory background checks in private handgun sales, such as gun shows.

The survey was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research with funding from the Joyce Foundation. The findings and analysis of the survey are being distributed to legislators and policymakers throughout the country.

"Recent tragic events have reminded us all of the enormous problem of gun violence in America and that people strongly support measures to promote gun safety and to regulate firearms," said Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey at NORC and author of the report, 1998 National Gun Policy Survey. "This is our third national survey of American attitudes toward gun policies, and they have consistently shown that people want firearms to be tightly regulated. The latest survey shows a continuation of an upward trend in public support for more control over firearms and more attention to making all firearms safer," Smith said.

"Clearly, the results of this survey indicate that the American public understands the need to strengthen this nation’s gun policies," said Stephen Teret, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. "People readily accept strong regulation of the manufacture, sale, and distribution of these dangerous consumer products. While the gun lobby pushes looser concealed carry laws, the public worries about its personal safety."

Other key findings include:

*Sixty percent of Americans want licenses to carry concealed weapons to be issued only to those with special needs, e.g., private detectives. And 83 percent of the public believes that public places, including stores, theaters and restaurants, should be able to prohibit patrons from bringing guns on the premises. Several state legislatures have this year been debating loosening controls on concealed carrying of weapons.

*Americans strongly support measures to keep guns from lawbreakers. 90 percent favor preventing those convicted of domestic violence from buying guns, 81 percent would stop gun sales to those convicted of simple assault, and 68 percent to those convicted of drunk driving.

*People are willing to pay higher taxes for measures to reduce gun thefts and root out illegal gun dealers, and they express a willingness to pay higher prices for guns that are designed for greater safety.

*Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed oppose importing guns from a country where those guns could not be legally sold. A total of 55 percent are against all gun imports.

*Nearly one out of ten adults report having carried a handgun away from home during the last months. About half of those did not have a permit for doing so, and about half of the handguns were loaded.

*Just under half of adults who own a handgun obtained the gun through a "less regulated source," defined as pawnshops, private sales, gifts and inheritances.

The survey shows strong support for a broad range of policies to regulate firearms, including some provisions similar to those included in President Clinton’s recent legislative package.

*While the President’s gun regulation package suggests the inclusion of devices such as trigger locks with all guns sold, the NORC survey shows support for childproofing the gun itself: 88 percent of those surveyed feel that all new handguns sold should be designed so that a child’s small hands cannot fire them.

*The survey found that 80 percent of the people asked say owners should be liable for injuries if a gun is not stored to prevent misuse by children.


*When asked if there should be a mandatory background check and a five-day waiting period in order to purchase a gun, 82 percent of the people owning a gun, as well as 85 percent of the general public, agreed that position was a good idea.

"These findings make it abundantly clear that the failure to take the steps necessary to reduce gun injury--including legislation and regulation--is a failure to follow the will of the people," said Roseanna Ander, gun violence program officer of the Joyce Foundation. "Recent events make it profoundly urgent to provide the American public, once and for all, with the reasonable, rational, public health-oriented approach to gun policy that they have long demanded."

The data were collected in the fall of 1998, before the recent school shooting in Littleton, Colorado, but following similar highly publicized shootings in Arkansas, Kentucky and Oregon. The telephone survey of 1,200 U.S. adults has a margin of error of three percent. The final report is entitled The 1998 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center: Research Findings.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, established in 1995, is dedicated to preventing gun-related deaths and injuries. Located in The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the Center applies a science-based, public health approach to gun violence. It provides accurate information on firearm injuries and gun policy; develops, analyzes, and evaluates strategies to prevent firearm injuries; and conducts public health and legal research to identify gun policy needs.

Affiliated with the University of Chicago, NORC has conducted national surveys in the public interest for over 55 years. As a pioneer in the field of survey research, NORC is noted for the high quality of its survey designs, methods, and data.

Based in Chicago with assets of $947 million, the Joyce Foundation supports efforts to strengthen public policies in ways that improve the quality of life in the Great Lakes region. Since 1993, it has granted over $13 million to support public health approaches to reduce gun violence.

Full results of the survey are posted on the NORC web site at: For more information on the survey, please contact Julie Antelman, Public Information Coordinator, National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago at (773) 256-6312.
Last modified at 03:51 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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