IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Guns in America: Who owns them and who believes laws should be stricter (or not)

More Americans say they are now in favor of stricter gun laws than at any time since 2000, after the Columbine shooting, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Sixty-one percent said so, a nine-point jump from before the December 2012 Newtown shootings. The last time the question was asked before the shooting was in January 2011. Then, 52 percent said guns laws should be "more strict." 

What’s responsible?

The shift is largely due to the Obama coalition of city-dwellers, African Americans, Hispanics, and Democrats, groups that also said they do not own as many guns as rural and white respondents. But there are shifts with most other groups as well. And even though only a minority of Republicans -- 37 percent -- support stricter gun laws, that's a 13-point jump from 2011. 

In the latest poll, 86 percent of African Americans, 82 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Hispanics, and 71 percent of urban respondents said they were in favor of stricter gun laws, all up double-digits from 2011.

Urban: 71% (Feb. 2013) - 55% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +16

African Americans: 86% (Feb. 2013) - 71% (Jan. 2011) Net change: +15

Republicans: 37% (Feb. 2013) - 24% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +13

Hispanics: 72% (Feb. 2013) - 60% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +12

Democrats: 82% (Feb. 2013) - 71% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +11

Men: 51% (Feb. 2013) - 42% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +9

Women: 69% (Feb. 2013) - 61% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +8

Suburban: 59% (Feb. 2013) - 51% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +8

Whites: 55% (Feb. 2013) - 48% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +7

Rural: 48% (Feb. 2013) - 41% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +7

Independents: 49% (Feb. 2013) - 48% (Jan. 2011). Net change: +1 


There has been virtually no change with independents. In the current poll, 49 percent say gun laws should be stricter, just a one-point increase from January 2011.

Whether or not someone owns a gun in the household is the biggest factor in supporting or opposing stricter gun laws.

Among those who do not own a gun in the household, 75 percent support stricter laws. Among those who do, just 45 percent support stricter laws.

Overall, 42 percent said someone in their household owns a gun.

So who are they?

There’s a gender split, with more men saying they own one (48 percent) than women (36 percent).

It also varies, of course, by region. There are more gun owners in the South (50 percent) than anywhere else. The Northeast has the fewest (28 percent).

There’s also an urban-rural split. Just 34 percent of those who live in cities said they own a gun, but six-in-10 rural respondents do (59 percent). (Just 41 percent of those who live in the suburbs do.)

And there’s a Democratic-Republican split as well – just 30 percent of Democrats say they own a gun, while 55 percent of Republicans do. Forty-nine percent of independents said so.

Reflecting that divide, just 34 percent of Obama voters said someone in their home owns one versus 57 percent of Romney voters.

By race, whites own more guns than minorities. Nearly half of whites (47 percent) said they own a gun. Just one-in-five African Americans said so (20 percent) and just 28 percent of Hispanics.

Gun ownership does not vary much by age, but younger voters (18 to 34) are the least likely to own a gun (39 percent).

And gun owners are more affluent. Those making more than $75,000 a year are the most likely to own a gun (50 percent) – even though professionals (40 percent) and white-collar workers (40 percent) are among the least likely to own one.