A majority of Americans say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns than for the government to limit access to firearms, a Pew Research Center survey conducted this month found.
The nationwide survey was conducted Dec. 3 to 7 with 1,507 adults using landlines and cellphones and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for all respondents. For African-Americans, the error margin is plus or minus 10 points.
The center said that it was the first time in two decades of its surveys on attitudes about firearms that a majority of Americans had expressed more support for gun ownership rights than for gun control.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said it was more important to protect gun ownership rights, and 46 percent said the priority should be controlled access to firearms.
In a 2000 Pew survey, 29 percent chose gun rights over gun control, and in a 2013 survey conducted a month after the Newtown shooting, 45 percent favored gun rights.
The Pew poll on firearms, conducted in early December, also found that African-Americans have become increasingly likely to believe that firearm ownership does more to protect people than it does to threaten an individual’s safety, even as they continue to support gun control measures.
When asked in 2012, 29 percent of African-Americans said guns offered people protection rather than exposed them to greater danger, but in this year’s survey, the number of African-Americans who viewed firearms as offering more personal safety nearly doubled to 54 percent.
By contrast, the views of whites who believe guns are more likely to provide personal protection have changed more modestly rising to 62 percent this year from 54 percent in 2012, the poll found.
Overall, 57 percent of Americans said gun ownership was more helpful in protecting people from becoming victims of crime, and 38 percent said it did more to endanger one’s safety.