Americans’ experiences, concerns, and views related to gun violence

Many Americans place a high importance on both preventing gun violence and protecting gun rights.

August 23, 2022

About a fifth of Americans say either themselves, a family member, or a close friend has had an experience with gun violence in the past five years, and even more believe it is likely they will be a victim of gun violence in the next five years, according to a new UChicago Harris/AP-NORC Poll. There are significant racial and ethnic disparities, with Black Americans four times as likely and Hispanic Americans twice as likely to report recent experience with gun violence when compared with white Americans.

Three-fourths of Americans view gun violence as a major problem, and 8 in 10 say gun violence is on the rise in the United States, although fewer believe it is increasing in their community.

Many Americans hold intersecting priorities, as they want to both prevent gun violence and protect gun rights. In particular, 52% say it is both very important to prevent mass shootings and very important to ensure people are able to own guns for personal protection.

There is broad public support for a variety of gun control policies, and 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter. Majorities favor policies to restrict who can purchase guns and what kinds of guns can be purchased, but the most popular regulations are those that limit who can purchase guns. For example, 85% support a federal law preventing mentally ill people from purchasing guns, compared to 59% who support a nationwide ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Americans’ attitudes toward gun policies and perceptions of gun violence are related to factors beyond just political partisanship such as race, ethnicity, age, and where people live.

About 4 in 10 Americans believe that it is at least somewhat likely that they will become a victim of gun violence within the next five years, and young adults are most likely to report this concern.

When it comes to experiences with gun violence, there are significant racial and ethnic differences. Fifty-four percent of Black Americans report themselves, a family member, or a close friend has had an experience with gun violence in the last five years, compared to 27% of Hispanic Americans and 13% of white Americans. Likewise, 59% of Black adults, 45% of Hispanic adults, and 34% of white adults say that gun violence is on the rise in their communities.

Those living in urban areas (51%) are also more likely to believe that gun violence is on the rise in their communities than those living in suburbs (39%) and rural communities (27%).

Americans who believe gun violence is increasing in their community are more likely to support a variety of gun control policies, even controlling for political partisanship.

The nationwide poll was conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research from July 28 to August 1, 2022, using AmeriSpeak®, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,373 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.8 percentage points.

AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (August 2022). “Americans’ Experiences, Concerns, and Views Related to Gun Violence.”



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