Culture Wars/Current Controversies

65% See Gun Rights As Protection Against Tyranny


Two-out-of-three Americans recognize that their constitutional right to own a gun was intended to ensure their freedom.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 65% of American Adults think the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that people are able to protect themselves from tyranny. Only 17% disagree, while another 18% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Not surprisingly, 72% of those with a gun in their family regard the Second Amendment as a protection against tyranny. However, even a majority (57%) of those without a gun in their home hold that view.

Many gun control advocates talk of the right to gun ownership as relating to hunting and recreational uses only.

While there are often wide partisan differences of opinion on gun-related issues, even 54% of Democrats agree with 75% of Republicans and 68% of those not affiliated with either major party that the right to own a gun is to ensure such freedom.

As Americans search for answers to the Newtown shooting, attitudes on gun ownership are “not likely to change in a nation where six out of 10 adults would rather live in a neighborhood where they can own a gun and most would feel safer if their children attended a school with an armed security guard.” Scott Rasmussen explains in his latest weekly newspaper column that if Congress is “not willing to go as far as the president wants on gun control, perhaps they… might take stronger action on mental health issues or increase the penalties for crimes committed with a gun.”

In the wake of last month’s horrific elementary school massacre in Connecticut, 51% favor stricter gun control laws. There is strong support for background checks of gun owners, but a plurality believes dealing with mental health issues will lead to more effective results. Fifty-nine percent (59%) think Congress and President Obama are likely to create stricter gun control laws.

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The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on January 16-17, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Seventy-four percent (74%) of all Americans continue to believe that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of an average citizen to own a gun. Just 17% disagree. These views haven’t changed in nearly four years of surveying.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The amendment is part of the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court has ruled that this does guarantee an individual’s right to own a gun.

The NRA is now viewed favorably by 49% of Americans and unfavorably by 41%. This includes 25% with a Very Favorable opinion of the influential gun-rights organization and 23% with a Very Unfavorable one. The NRA’s favorables are down slightly from 54% in July 2011, but its unfavorable are unchanged.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe in America today there is too much government power and too little individual freedom. Sixty percent (60%) feel the federal government today does not have the consent of the governed.

Americans are now evenly divided over whether the federal government is a protector of individual rights or a threat to those rights.

But even before the Newtown shootings, Americans rated the freedoms of speech and religion as more important the freedom of the press and the right to bear arms. Seventeen percent (17%) believe there is too much individual freedom in the United States today.

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