Report

Public Divided Over State, Local Laws Banning Handguns

  • March 23, 2010

The public is divided over whether state and local governments should be able to pass laws banning the sale and possession of handguns. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the next few months on the constitutionality of a 28-year-old Chicago law prohibiting handgun ownership in that city.

Half of the public (50%) says that state and local governments should not be able to pass laws barring the sale or possession of handguns in their jurisdictions, while 45% say they should be able to pass such laws.

Previous Pew Research surveys have found broad opposition to a law banning the sale of handguns. In April 2008, 59% said they opposed a law banning handguns while 36% favored such a law. There was less opposition to a law banning handgun sales in 2000 and the late 1990s. In March 2000, 47% opposed a law banning handgun sales while the same percentage favored it.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 10-14 among 1,500 adults, finds the public is evenly split over whether it is more important to protect the rights of gun owners (46%) or to control gun ownership (46%). That is largely unchanged from April 2009 (49% control gun ownership vs. 45% protect gun rights). But from 1993 to 2008, majorities had consistently said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect the right to own guns.

Read the full report Public Divided Over State, Local Laws Banning Handguns on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.