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Survey Says: Nearly Half of Americans Think It’s Too Easy to Buy a Gun

But most Americans aren’t buying guns.

According to a recent survey by Rasmussen Reports, 49% of Americans think it’s too easy to buy a gun. Nearly two-thirds also say that the main reason people purchase firearms is for self-defense. But here’s the kicker: Most Americans – including at least 80% of this survey’s respondents – aren’t buying guns.

Buying a Gun Seems Easy … Especially If You’ve Never Done It

The first question in the telephone survey was: “Have you or someone in your immediate family bought a gun in the past year?” The answer options were “yes,” “no,” and “not sure.” Just 20% of the 1,243 respondents answered “yes” – though thanks to the imprecise wording of the question, there’s no way of knowing just what portion of that percentage actually bought one personally.

We can know, however – or at least assume with some degree of certainty – that all 8% who answered “not sure” didn’t buy a gun, but some family member might have. Add that 8% to the 72% who answered “no,” and we’re left with a minimum of 80% of the survey respondents – with, quite likely, some unknowable portion of the 20% who answered “yes” – who haven’t bought a gun recently.

All that math is to say that, of the 1,243 American adults Rasmussen Reports went on to ask other gun questions, probably about 1,000 of them were guessing at both the motives of and difficulties met by other people. But perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that 80% of respondents weren’t gun owners. Certainly, not having bought a firearm in the last year does not mean these people are unarmed. A Pew Research poll, however, indicates that most of them probably are. Pew asked 5,115 American adults whether they owned firearms back in June of 2023, and just 32% said they did.

Confusing Questions, Confounding Results

Rasmussen has a solid track record in polling, and its ongoing polling in 2016 was considered by many to be the most accurate of that election cycle. The problem with the baseline question in this particular survey is that it doesn’t reveal who actually bought a firearm in the last year – never mind whether the respondents hadn’t owned guns at all. But it also asked another confounding question: “What is the main reason most people purchase a gun?” The answers were:

  • Self-defense (65%)
  • To commit a criminal act (7%)
  • For job purposes (3%)
  • Some other reason (17%)
  • Not sure (8%)

First, remember that the vast majority of these people either have never bought a gun or, at the very least, haven’t done so recently. So, no, that 7% likely isn’t just shy of 90 people confessing to a crime. It – along with the rest of the options – represents assumptions about buying decisions made largely by a group of non-buyers. Beyond that, however, there’s another issue with this question. While the question itself isn’t nearly as imprecise as the first, the answer list leaves much to be desired. Notably, there are a few very common motivations missing from the list that one must assume fall under “Some other reason,” such as target, competition, and other recreational shooting; collecting; and – here’s the big one – hunting. One can likely add “Because I can” or “because I want to” as an additional option. To ignore collectors, sport shooters, and hunters seems like an egregious oversight.

Moreover, adding them in – or even just adding hunting – may have skewed the results considerably. The Pew survey, which gave a baseline of who did and didn’t own firearms, showed that of those who do have guns, 91% said protection was at least a minor reason for being armed. Sport shooting came in second at 59%, followed by hunting at 52% and as part of a gun collection at 51%.

It’s All in Who You Ask

In the Rasmussen survey, women outnumbered men 52% to 48%, and Democrats outnumbered Republicans 34% to 29% (with the remaining 37% claiming “other” as their political affiliation). If that seems like an odd selection for gun questions, that’s because it is. According to the Pew data, Republicans are much more likely to own firearms than Democrats (45% to 20%), and about twice as many men are armed as women (40% to 25%). Racially, 38% of white Americans report owning guns compared to 24% of black Americans and 20% of Hispanics.

So, who’s most likely to own a firearm in the US? White conservative men – no surprise there, perhaps. But let’s look deeper into the Rasmussen survey. White conservative men were the ones least likely to say buying a gun is too easy and the most likely to say it’s too hard. More black respondents said it was too easy versus too hard (60%-4%) than white (49%-13%). More women (53%-12%) than men (44%-16%) took the same position, and Democrats were far more likely to think it’s too easy to buy a gun (72% to just 8% who say it’s too hard) than Republicans (30%-17%).

Not surprisingly, Pew also found that gun owners (38%) were less likely than non-owners (73%) to say it’s too easy to buy a firearm, which seems to track with the Rasmussen survey, though results are difficult to accurately compare thanks to how differently each approached its baseline question. Urban and suburban Americans were also more likely to think it’s too easy – 72% and 63%, respectively – while less than half (47%) of rural folk felt the same. Finally, 86% of Democrats – not exactly the most gun-friendly demographic – thought it was too easy to buy a firearm to just 34% of Republicans, according to the Pew poll.

Depending on which survey you pick, anywhere from just under half to almost two-thirds of Americans think buying a gun should be harder. But, then again, most Americans haven’t tried.

Read More From James Fite

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