Black Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos support gun measures more than any other racial group, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.
The study, which surveyed over 5,000 Americans, found that gun violence is viewed as a major problem across the board and that a majority of Americans support stricter gun laws — but that beefing up safety laws is more important to some communities than others.
“Gun attitudes are complex,” said Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of political research. “When you get to the fundamental divide over gun ownership and what it does for safety in the United States, you see this even split.”
But one of his report’s most striking findings was the differences in attitudes among racial groups, he said. Support among minority communities for tightening gun restrictions was drastically higher than among white people.
Black adults show the highest support for stricter gun laws, at 77%, followed by Asians, at 74%, Latinos, at 68%, and whites, at 51%.
Asian adults show the highest levels of support for increasing the minimum age to own guns to 21 (71%), as well as for banning assault-style weapons (62%). Black and Asian adults were also the strongest opponents of law allowing so-called concealed carry and of shortening wait periods to buy guns.
The variations can be explained by many factors, experts said, including exposure to gun violence in everyday life, gun laws in immigrants’ native countries and experience with state-sponsored violence.
Among Asian Americans, the only group in the U.S. that has a majority immigrant population, a high support for gun measures might be attributed to strict gun laws across much of Asia, experts said.
“Most Asian immigrants come from countries where not only are there strict laws on things like assault weapons, there are strict laws on gun ownership, period,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, the founder and a co-director of AAPI Data. “They have not grown up in contexts where there’s a lot of gun ownership. Gun ownership is connected to attitudes towards gun control.”
For Black communities, which experience disproportionate levels of gun violence in the U.S., support for gun safety measures is often personal.
“In the Black community, a lot of that comes from lived experience — the real risk of being a victim of gun violence,” Ramakrishnan said.
There is variation within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, too, he said. For refugees or those who were born in countries with violent governments, gun attitudes may look different. In Vietnamese communities, for example, support for restrictions is lower, according to the 2022 Asian American Voter Survey.
“Refugee populations are more likely to have lived in a context where not only was there gun violence, there was military violence, war,” Ramakrishnan said. “The need or the feeling that people need to protect themselves is higher.”
Other data shows that gun ownership is up among Black, Latino and Asian Americans. Experts told Axios that the increase is most likely due to factors like anti-Asian hate, police brutality and rising homicide figures in some major cities.
Doherty said one of the biggest rifts when it comes to the gun debate is along party lines.
“Large shares of Americans want more restrictions on guns, but when it comes to the fundamental argument about gun ownership — does it do more to increase safety or decrease safety? — that’s the root of the divisiveness,” he said.