Strong Majority of Americans, NRA Members Back Gun Control

A poll finds both gun owners and non-gun owners support background checks, other measures.


The survey polled about 2,700 respondents across the country and was conducted this month.

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A strong majority of gun owners and non gun owners support stronger restrictions on firearms, according to a national survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University.

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A sizable 89 percent of all respondents, and 75 percent of those identified as NRA members, support universal background checks for gun sales. Similar surveys by Pew Research Center and Gallup have also found background checks to be by far the most popular gun control proposal in the aftermath the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

The results of Johns Hopkins survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicate broad support for a variety of gun control measures. About 70 percent of respondents supported bans on military-style semiautomatic weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, slightly less than the more than 80 percent who backed measures restricting those who could buy guns, such as people with histories of domestic violence or serious juvenile crimes.

President Barack Obama has pushed for these measures through executive orders and calls for congressional action in the wake of the December 14 shooting. The gun policy survey, conducted this month, polled about 2,700 respondents across the country.

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The survey purposely over-sampled gun owners and those living in homes with guns to better estimate the differences between gun-owners and non-gun owners. For the most part, the study found there was little difference in support between the two.

"Not only are gun owners and non-gun-owners very much aligned in their support for proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws, but the majority of NRA members are also in favor of many of these policies," Daniel Webster, co-author of the study and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said in a statement.

In addition to favoring universal background checks, the majority of NRA members surveyed supported prohibiting people with recent alcohol or drug charges to purchase guns, and 70 percent supported a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison for selling guns to persons who are not legally allowed to have one.

The surveyors conducted a parallel poll on mental health as it relates to gun violence. That survey found most Americans favored greater spending on mental health to deal with gun violence, but also indicated public opinion on mental illness was less clear-cut. A majority said discrimination against people with mental illness was a problem while nearly half said such people were more dangerous and two-thirds indicated they would not want someone with mental illness as a neighbor.

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"In light of our findings about Americans' attitudes toward persons with mental illness, it is worth thinking carefully about how to implement effective gun-violence–prevention measures without exacerbating stigma or discouraging people from seeking treatment," said Colleen Barry, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Both polls were conducted by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The school and its public health programs are large beneficiaries of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation's staunchest gun control advocates and a Hopkins alum. Bloomberg has given the school $1.1 billion since he graduated in 1964, including a $350 million Sunday. Bloomberg founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a prominent gun control group, and last week met with Obama's campaign manager to aid in the administration's gun control efforts.

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