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(Reuters Health) - More than two-thirds of Americans surveyed support some restrictions on carrying firearms in public places.
"One of the findings that surprised us was that, even among gun owners, there was strong support for placing at least some restrictions on the public places where legal gun owners can carry firearms,” Julia A. Wolfson from University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor told Reuters Health by email.
Even among politically conservative gun owners, nearly 80 percent supported placing some restrictions on where guns should be carried, she said.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, only three states (California, Florida, and Illinois) and the District of Columbia prohibit openly carrying firearms in all public places.
Wolfson’s team surveyed nearly 4,000 Americans about their views about specific public places where guns should be allowed to be legally carried. They oversampled veterans and adults living in homes with guns so they could explore questions related to gun ownership patterns and practices among veterans.
Restaurants (33 percent), service settings (31 percent), and retail stores (31 percent) were the only locations in which more than 30 percent of Americans thought people should be allowed to carry guns, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Public Health.
There was much less support for carrying guns on college campuses (23 percent), places of worship (21 percent), schools (19 percent), bars (18 percent), and sports stadiums (17 percent).
More gun owners supported allowing guns to be carried in restaurants (59 percent), college campuses (38 percent), bars (26 percent), and sports stadiums (27 percent).
Very few Americans supported allowing people to carry guns in all public places: 16 percent of gun owners, 9 percent of non-gun owners in households with guns, and 7 percent of non-gun owners in non-gun households.
About half of people in households without guns felt that guns should not be allowed to be carried in any public place, compared with 42 percent of non-gun owners in households with guns and 25 percent of gun owners.
Male gun owners were more likely than female gun owners to support allowing guns to be carried in all locations, and, regardless of gun ownership status, those calling themselves political liberals were less likely than those calling themselves political conservatives to support allowing guns to be carried in some or all public places.
Still, four out of five conservative gun owners also supported placing some restrictions on the public places where guns can be carried.
“In this study, we find that the majority of Americans, including most gun owners, support restricting the public places where legal gun owners can carry firearms,” Wolfson concluded. “This indicates that the recent legislative actions of state legislatures to expand the places where people can carry guns contrasts sharply with American public opinion.”
“Public opinion about the public places where guns should be allowed to be carried is at odds with proposed federal legislation that would require ‘reciprocity’ for gun carrying,” she said. “This proposed legislation, if passed, would mean that a gun owner whose state allows him or her to carry a gun in most places may be able to legally carry the gun in such places while in a state with more restrictive laws. Given the low public support for allowing guns to be carried in public places, this would seem to go against the will of the majority of Americans.”
Dr. Emmy Betz from University of Colorado School of Medicine and Colorado School of Public Health, Denver, has also examined these issues. She told Reuters Health by email, "This is the most in-depth examination I've seen of what the public thinks about carrying firearms in public. The variation in views - and the fact that overall views weren't as supportive of public carrying as basic polls suggest - highlights how important research in this area is.”
“I am not a political scholar,” Dr. Betz said, “but as a believer in democracy, I have to hope that civic engagement (voting, expressing opinions to elected officials, engaging in informed debate, etc.) can overcome special interests or lobbying on any topic. And, as an advocate for evidence-based policy, I emphasize the need for funded, non-partisan science to provide the evidence for such policies.”
She added, “We are a diverse nation, and we need to talk with (and listen to) each other as we find ways to enhance the health and safety of our country.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/2pM6AMS American Journal of Public Health, online April 20, 2017.