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Gun Owners And Non-Owners Actually Agree More Than You'd Think, Study Shows

So.... where's the problem?

CARLY CASSELLA, SCIENCEALERT
23 MAY 2018
 

The issue of gun rights is one of the most politically-loaded and hotly debated issues in the US. Yet despite all the squabbling, a surprising new survey suggests that when it comes to gun control measures, most Americans are on the same page.

 

The survey, which polled more than 2,100 Americans, reveals a majority of both gun owners and non-owners support laws that would restrict or regulate gun ownership.

"There's much more agreement than one would think given the rhetoric and the fighting,"says David Hemenway, an expert on violence prevention at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

Of the 24 different policies put forward in the survey, only one of the policies failed to receive majority support. In addition, only 8 of the policies saw a greater than 10-point difference in support between gun owners and non-owners.

The most popular of all the measures was a policy for universal background checks, which raked in 87.8 percent support from those surveyed.

Other popular measures included gun prohibitions for persons with temporary domestic violence restraining orders (81 percent) and improved reporting of mental illness in universal background checks (83.6 percent).

As the study points out, however, popularity is not necessarily enough. The policies that have the best chance of actually becoming laws are those that receive high overall support and minimal support gaps between gun owners and non-owners.

 

For example, a law that would implement higher safety training standards for concealed carry permits received more than 80 percent support from both gun owners and non-owners. The study argues that these are the sorts of policies lawmakers should be focusing on.

Still, the American public doesn't agree on every gun control measure. When it comes to protecting America's youth from gun violence, the survey suggests there is far more dissent on the best solution.

For instance, while 43 percent of gun owners thought you should be able to bring legally concealed guns onto school grounds, only 19 percent of non-owners agreed. Similarly, laws that would keep guns locked away from children were supported by only 58 percent of gun owners, compared to 79 percent of non-owners.

Gun control solutions for mass shootings were also less clear-cut. In comparison to non-owners, gun owners were 22 percent less likely to support a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and 26 percent less likely to support a ban on large-capacity magazines.

While the results of the survey may surprise some people, Hemenway says the public consensus on gun control measures is nothing new.

 

"This has been true for the last 20 years," he said, citing two similar findings in 1996 and 1997.

There's also some strong evidence to suggest these gun control measures might actually work in decreasing gun violence.

For example, universal background checks are associated with lower levels of guns diverted for criminal use. Likewise, there is evidence to suggest laws that stop domestic violence abusers from owning guns can significantly reduce intimate partner homicides.

Even still, the paucity of research on gun control policies means lawmakers are left guessing as to whether other solutions will actually work.

"There's been very little money for firearms research, relative to the size of the problem," Hemenway said.

The problem is nothing less than a public health crisis. Last year, the US experienced 346 mass shootings, and this year is headed in the same direction. So far in 2018, there have been 103 mass shootings.

Without scientific research steering new gun control policies, this trend will likely only continue.

The survey has been published in the American Journal of Public Health.

This article was originally published by ScienceAlert.