Guns in America: The FPG Panel Weighs In
Discussion regarding gun control laws in the United States is seen and heard in the media on a daily basis, and most recently, due to the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14, 2018. We polled a random, national sample of 1000 males and females, ages 18+, on their opinions of several often-debated gun control topics
POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION
We asked respondents to tell us with which political party they most identify. Political parties represented in the poll’s data included Democratic, Republican, Green, and Libertarian parties. Additionally, there is significant representation (nearly 16%) of those that identify as “Other”.
Overall, half of the poll’s respondents (50.6%) identify with the Democratic Party and one-quarter (25%) of respondents identify with the Republican Party. The remaining 24.4% of respondents most closely identify with the Green, Libertarian or “Other” political parties.
GUN CONTROL TOPICS
Respondents were presented with a series of seven statements revolving around highly-debated gun control measures. Three response options were given: Support, Oppose and Don’t Know. The specific measures of interest for this poll are:
- Requiring background checks on all gun sales
- Preventing sales of all firearms to people who have been reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental-health provider
- Expanding screening and treatment for the mentally ill
- Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks
- Preventing sales of all firearms to people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors
- Requiring a mandatory waiting period of three days after a gun is purchased before it can be taken home
- Banning assault-style weapons
BACKGROUND CHECKS ON GUN SALES
There is overwhelming support for the requirement of background checks on all gun sales. Of the seven measures presented, this is the one measure that respondents support the most. A strong 95.6% of respondents support background checks on all gun sales, while only 2.7% oppose. An even smaller number of respondents (1.7%) were unable to say whether or not they support or oppose the idea.
When it comes to making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, there is strong support for (89%) this measure, with 6.2% opposing.
FIREARMS SALES AND MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS
The second-most supported gun control measure is the prevention of the sale of firearms to people who have been reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental health provider. Once again, the vast majority (95%) of respondents are in support of such a measure.
Similarly, 94.6% of respondents feel that screening and treatment for the mentally ill should be expanded. Only 1.3% of respondents oppose this idea, which is the least-opposed of all seven measures.
FIREARMS SALES AND MISDEMEANOR CONVICTIONS
We asked whether or not the sale of all firearms to those that have been convicted of violent misdemeanors should be prevented. A misdemeanor is a crime that carries a less severe punishment than a felony; specifically, a crime punishable by a fine and by a term of imprisonment not to be served in a penitentiary and not to exceed one year (“Misdemeanor”). Crimes of violence constituting a misdemeanor may include, but are not limited to, assault, battery, [domestic violence], stalking, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing offenses (“Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services”). The poll results show that 82.7% support this measure. A higher percentage of respondents (10.6%) were unable to say whether or not they support or oppose the idea than those that outright oppose the idea (6.7%).
WAITING PERIOD LAWS
Handgun waiting periods are laws that impose a delay between the initiation of a purchase and final acquisition of a firearm (Luca, Malhotra, Poliquin, & Cook 2017). When respondents were asked about their opinion of the requirement of a three-day mandatory waiting period, 80.7% of respondents supported the idea. A number of states currently have a waiting period regulation of some type in place, but most states do not (Stone).
Due to the usage of assault-style rifles in many of the deadly mass shootings over the past several years, there is a large debate as to whether or not assault-style weapons should be banned. Even though the majority of respondents (72.6%) show support for this measure, this was the least-supported measure among all seven of the gun control measures presented in the poll.
STUDENT MARCH ON WASHINGTON
Lastly, we asked respondents about whether or not they support the Student March on Washington to protest gun violence. The ‘March for Our Lives’ is being spearheaded by survivors of the Parkland, FL shooting, and is to be held on March 24, 2018 at an undetermined location in Washington, D.C. (“Everything You Need to Know About March For Our Lives”). Most respondents expressed support for this idea (70.4%) over opposition (13.8%), although 15.8% of respondents were undecided on their support – or lack thereof – for this movement.
Regardless of political ideology, there is prevalent support for improved gun control measures in America. The data shows that, as the poll delves deeper into gun control measures and presents additional ideas, the gaps between support, opposition and undecided/unsure begins to narrow. Across the seven measures presented, plus the statement regarding the Student March on Washington, a significant percentage of respondents still do not know how they feel, and cannot say whether or not they support or oppose a particular measure or idea. In all cases, the difference between opposition and neither support or oppose is no greater than 4.2%.
“Misdemeanor.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2018.
“Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.” Fresh From Florida Twitter Icon, www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Licensing/Concealed-Weapon-License/Disqualifying-Conditions/Misdemeanor-Crime-of-Violence-Not-Including-Domestic-Violence.
Luca, Michael, et al. “Handgun Waiting Periods Reduce Gun Deaths.” Edited by Philip J Cook, Www.pnas.org, National Academy of Sciences, 16 Oct. 2017, www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/10/11/1619896114. 1 Mar. 2018.
Stone, Brianna. “Here are the gun laws for all 50 U.S. states.” The Daily Dot, 15 Feb. 2018, www.dailydot.com/layer8/gun-laws-by-state/.
“Everything You Need to Know About March For Our Lives.” Time, Time, 20 Feb. 2018, time.com/5167102/march-for-our-lives-parkland-school-shooting-protest/.