ValuePenguin has found that more than eight in 10 American gun owners are in favor of mandatory background checks for all firearms purchases, while many would support even tougher measures.
Interestingly, our data suggests that support for gun control reform doesn't break down along party or regional lines. Both Republican gun owners and those who live in the South are mostly in favor of increased gun laws. Over half support new legislation targeting assault-style weapons, and both groups overwhelmingly approve of mandatory background checks for purchasers.
For some gun owners, this advocacy even trumps reservations about whether such laws would be constitutional.
- Around 85% of all gun owners support mandatory background checks on people purchasing a gun, while over half advocate for an outright ban on assault-style weapons.
- While only half of gun owners believe a mandatory buyback of assault-style weapons is constitutional, almost 60% of gun owners would still support a buyback of assault-style weapons.
- Gun owners in Northeastern states are most likely to be in favor of these proposed laws, with two-thirds supporting both mandatory background checks and an assault weapons ban. Southerners and Southwesterners are most likely to oppose the laws, but over half of respondents in these regions still expressed support.
- Republicans mostly approve of new legislation on guns: While 91% of Republicans are in favor of mandatory background checks, 53% support an assault weapons ban, and nearly half are in favor of a mandatory buyback of assault-style weapons.
- Despite more than one in two gun owners being in favor of a gun buyback and over 35% claiming they'd be willing to part with their guns if it meant reduced gun violence, about half own insured firearms that could be excluded from coverage in the event of a government mandate.
Over eight in 10 gun owners support mandatory background checks, but many would go further by advocating for mandatory buybacks and laws banning assault-style weapons
Gun owners in our survey are overwhelmingly in favor of new mandatory background checks for people buying firearms. In fact, fewer than 20% opposed such a measure. Many gun owners went on to express support for even stricter measures.
For instance, more than half of our respondents said they would support a mandatory gun buyback of assault-style weapons like the one popularized most recently by former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke during his 2019 presidential campaign. Similarly, most people are for a ban that would prohibit these types of weapons, including models like AK-47s and AR-15s. Men are split on a ban, while about 62% of women approve.
Collective support for more gun legislation is strong even as half of the respondents expressed misgivings about the constitutionality of such reforms. While 57% of all gun owners support a mandatory gun buyback, only 50% believe that such a measure is constitutional. This data suggests that a portion of firearm users advocating for new laws have shifted away from deferring to the Constitution on some matters of gun reform.
However, despite the apparent support for new laws, only 36% of respondents said they would support a ruling that required them to give up their own guns. An additional 14% weren't sure. This sharp drop-off could be attributed to the distinction gun owners might make between a buyback that pays them for their lost firearms and another type of law that wouldn't necessarily compensate gun owners for their confiscated weapons.
Despite concerns about constitutionality, many Republican and Southern gun owners join the nationwide majority in support of new gun laws
Increased gun laws are popular among most gun owners regardless of their political affiliation. In fact, we found that mandatory background checks are more widely supported by Republican gun owners in our study than Democrats. Nine in 10 Republican gun owners approve of such laws, compared to eight in 10 gun-owning Democrats.
Although support from the right tends to be lower than on the left for all forms of gun regulation, around half of all Republican gun owners do favor more restrictions. About 53% of all Republicans are receptive to an assault weapons ban. Around half of Republican gun owners said they would approve of a mandatory buyback of assault rifles. This level of support for the policy exceeds the 43% of Republicans who think it would be constitutional.
Bipartisan support for gun regulation is accompanied by cross-regional majorities as well, though support is the highest in states where stringent gun laws already exist. Although a smaller percentage of Southerners support new gun laws compared to other regions, the majority of gun owners in these states, which are often characterized as overwhelmingly pro-gun, actually support adding new firearm laws. Over half of the gun owners in these states favor assault-style bans and buybacks. Additionally, 83% of Southern gun owners support mandatory background checks on all gun purchases.
When comparing the level of support for gun regulation by region, Northeasterners are the most likely to favor all three policies mentioned in our survey: mandatory background checks, an assault weapons ban and an assault-style weapons buyback. At least 65% of respondents from states in the Northeast support each of these proposals, while over 90% support mandatory background checks.
Around half of all firearms are insured, but many could be excluded from coverage if owners had to give them up as a result of government action
While conducting research on gun owners' feelings about new legislation, we discovered that around half of all guns are insured. Another 14% weren't sure, but most homeowners insurance policies do provide about $2,500 of protection for guns. However, gun owners likely wouldn't receive any insurance compensation on guns lost as a result of a mandatory buyback.
Most homeowners insurance companies have a clause that excludes coverage of property that was confiscated or seized because of governmental action or public policy. This may be unwelcome news to gun owners who spend a sizable amount of money per year on their guns. We found that 46% of gun owners spend less than $500 per year on their guns. Conversely, 20% spend more than $500 per year, and another 20% spend more than $1,000.
In past privately funded buyback events in the United States, compensation varied but was much less than the worth of the weapon. Assault-style weapons typically cost more than $500. Yet, at a Detroit buyback in 2012, assault-style weapons could be exchanged for up to $100. In 2013, Phoenix gave away $200 grocery store gift cards for assault-style weapons. Finally, again in 2013, the Seattle police department gave away an average of less than $100 for 712 guns.
A federal buyback would have to compensate firearms owners enough to make it worthwhile for someone to part with their legal weapons. Otherwise, the popularity (and political viability) of increased gun laws may wane.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,020 Americans — 411 of whom have a gun in their household. The survey was fielded October 1-3, 2019.