Majority of American Households Own Guns & Support Gun Rights
By Jonathan Turley
There are new polls out of Harvard and NBC that show surprising results on gun ownership and rights. According to NBC, a majority (52%) now say that they or someone in their household owns a gun. Most notably, the Harvard poll shows that six in ten voters believe owning a gun is a necessary part of protecting themselves from criminals.
Despite the strong anti-gun rights message from the White House and the media, the public seems to be moving significantly in the opposite direction.
Some 55% of voters now believe that “Woke politicians are to blame for rising crime.” With gun control one of the top issues for Democrats going into this election, the polls show a growing gap with a majority of voters on the issue, particularly as crime continues to rise among the top issues for 2024.
The NBC polling shows a record number of Americans are now gun owners. The current level is up six percent from 2019 when 46% of Americans said that they or someone in their household owned a gun. It is now up 10 points in the last ten years.
Notably, that includes 41% of Democrats. If this trend continues, half of the Democratic voters will soon be living in households with gun owners. Some 45% of independents confirm ownership as do 66% of Republicans.
The Harvard poll is likely to be more chilling for the Democratic Party. Not only do citizens overwhelmingly blame woke policies on the left for rising crime, but 42% believe that crime and safety is getting worse in their community. Only 21% believe that it has gotten better.
Harvard then asked “Do you think you need to have a gun today in case you are attacked by criminals, or do you think owning a gun is unnecessary?”
A majority of voters in all three categories (Democrat, Republican, or independent) said that a gun is necessary. That includes 54% of Democrats. (Some 77% of Republicans and 56% of independents agreed).
Consider that for a second. Almost half of Democrats are gun owners and over half believe gun ownership is necessary. It is one of the greatest disconnects of either party with their membership. While Democrats have found a winning issue on abortion in recent elections, it represents a growing separation on one of the other key issues in this election. President Biden has pursued some of the most aggressively anti-gun policies of any president.
Legally, the polling shows that the public seems to be moving toward the view of the Supreme Court despite unrelenting attacks in the media. Since the Court declared the right to bear arms to be an individual right in Heller, the media has overwhelmingly decried the decision (and later decisions). Reporters generally quote staunchly critical law professors who portray the Court as “gun-crazy” and disconnected from both the Constitution and reality.
Once again, the public appears to be tuning out the media. What should be concerning for both the Democratic Party and the media is that the Second Amendment is different from other rights in that citizens have a direct and tangible investment in its protection. Many rights are viewed as fairly abstract. Indeed, that has long been a problem in the free speech community where the right is often limited by threats that are viewed as more immediate and real like terrorism.
Gun ownership can give voters a tangible investment worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. Many have more than one gun. That gives them a vested interest in a debate over limiting gun rights or banning weapons. When President Biden repeatedly pledges to ban assault weapons, there are millions with such weapons. Likewise, Biden has referred to the danger of semi-automatic weapons which would include popular handguns. He previously has included 9mm handguns in his proposed ban. Other Democrats have called for gun confiscation. Those are calls that a majority of Americans may view as threatening their own property and safety.
While the Court may be at odds with a majority of voters on abortion, a growing number appear to be embracing gun ownership and gun rights. That does not mean that either the Court or the voters will not support reasonable limits. Since Heller, the Court has emphasized that there may be such limits on this right.
However, the United States (by household) is now a majority gun-owning nation according to these polls. That could present an interesting dynamic going into the election in 2024.
(TLB) published this article from Jonathan Turley with our appreciation for this perspective
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.
Header featured image (edited) credit: Hand Gun/ World/CNN illustration
Emphasis and pictorial content added by (TLB)
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