Most Americans back gun lobby, right to use deadly force - Reuters/Ipsos poll

WASHINGTON Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:06pm IST

An automatic weapon is displayed on a wall at the Scottsdale Gun Club in Scottsdale, Arizona December 10, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/Files

An automatic weapon is displayed on a wall at the Scottsdale Gun Club in Scottsdale, Arizona December 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans support the right to use deadly force to protect themselves - even in public places - and have a favourable view of the National Rifle Association, the main gun-lobby group, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

The online survey showed that 68 percent, or two out of three respondents, had a favorable opinion of the NRA, which starts its annual convention in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday.

Eighty-two percent of Republicans saw the gun lobbying group in a positive light as well as 55 percent of Democrats -- findings running counter to the image of supporters of the latter party being anti-NRA.

Most of the 1,922 people surveyed nationwide from April 9-12 said they supported laws that allow Americans to use deadly force to protect themselves from danger in their own home, or in a public place.

"Americans do hold to this idea that people should be allowed to defend themselves and using deadly force is fine, in those circumstances," said pollster Chris Jackson. "In the theoretical ... there's a certain tolerance of vigilantism."

The poll was conducted amid a nationwide debate over gun rights and race following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood crime watch volunteer who is white and Hispanic.

(Link to poll: http://

The poll results will be welcomed by the NRA, which hosts Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and likely nominee as a speaker at its convention on Friday.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents - with high numbers among both Republicans and Democrats - supported the use of deadly force to protect themselves from danger in their home.

Two-thirds said they backed laws permitting the use of deadly force to protect themselves in public.


Nearly half of those surveyed felt crime rates were rising where they lived - even though Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show that violent crime has declined for the past 4-1/2 years.

"People's perception of crime always over-represents reality," said Jackson. "I think that indicates the mind frame that the American public is in - there's always a constant low-level worrying about street crime."

As a result, 85 percent of those polled said they did not believe police could stop all crime and 77 percent felt regular people had to "step up" to help prevent crime from happening.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, nearly 100,000 people are shot every year in the United States in murders, suicides, accidents or police intervention.

Government statistics show that 31,347 people died in the United States in 2009 as a result of gunshots, including 11,493 in homicides.

Ninety-one percent of those who responded to the survey agreed on the need for background checks before a firearm can be sold. Only six percent said they thought gun ownership should require no, or very few restrictions.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they supported limiting the sale of automatic weapons, and 62 percent oppose bringing firearms into churches, workplaces or stores.

"A fairly large number of Americans support strong regulation, or at least moderate regulation of gun ownership," said Jackson. "Which is sort of counter to the narrative you often hear that legislators can't touch our guns or you'll have to pay."

The survey included 650 Republicans, 752 Democrats and 520 independents. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online poll is measured using a credibility interval and this poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points for all respondents.

(Editing by David Brunnstrom)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (4)
WI_Patriot wrote:
The pollster says “…there’s a certain tolerance of vigilantism.” He has missed an important distinction, I think. We have little tolerance for “vigilantixm”–defined as private citizens investigating crime, pursuing suspects, and metign out retribution. What we have “tolerance” for is personal responsibility for our own safety and security, and defending ourselves against an IMMEDIATE and IMMINENT threat of bodily injury or death. Far beyond tolerance, we view THAT as a fundamental human right, and a large portion of us view it as a duty. The vast majority of us abhor vigilantism, and prefer the disciplined investigation by police, and the rule of law and the jsutice system, with dealing with crimes AFTER they have been committed. We just reserve the right to PREVENT them from being successfully commited in the first place.

Apr 13, 2012 8:18am IST  --  Report as abuse
Spartans300 wrote:
I’ll rate this article about the results of the poll taken & it’s core questions as a Good & Fair One. But, here in lies the problem, In general Most If Not All Politicians & Your average everyday common American Citizens DO NOT UNDERSTAND The Essential Meaning Of The Phrase In The 2nd. Amendment To The U.S. Contitution Which States “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” My Suggestion, Look Up The Definition Of Key Word, In This Phrase – INFRINGED, Then Put The Word Not In Front Of It. Just Perhaps, Then Most Americans & Politicians Will get It. Now The Ultimate Reasons Our Founding Fathers Saw Fit To To Put This Amendment In The Constitution Was Because They Recognised It As A God Given Inalieable Right That Government Has No Right To Regulate, PERIOD!! And Finally & Ultimetly, It Gives Us, “We The People” The Right To Remove A Government That Becomes Tyrannical.

Apr 14, 2012 9:22pm IST  --  Report as abuse
ghop44 wrote:
I don’t understand why 2/3ds of respondents backed laws permitting the use of deadly force in public, yet the same 2/3rds feel you should not carry in stores or churches or the workplace. When you leave your house the chances are that you are probably headed to one of those places. Apparently many people don’t know that automatic weapons have been heavily regulated since 1934.

Apr 16, 2012 2:36am IST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

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