The majority of Americans still back firearms
An overwhelming majority of Americans, particularly whites, are adamant about the constitutional right to bear arms, a poll showed this week amid a rash of shootings acrossthe US.
More than two-thirds – 68 per cent – of respondents said the Second Amendment right is as important as other rights enshrined in the US Constitution, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the media, according to a survey published by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Some 75 per cent of whites agreed, compared to 56 per cent of non-whites.
Americans were divided over gun control. A slim majority of 52 per cent backed tougher gun control laws against 44 per cent, but the differences were stark between different religious and political groups, races and genders.
Six in 10 Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans (62 and 60 per cent, respectively) said they favoured more restrictions, compared to less than half of white evangelical Protestants (35 per cent) and white mainline Protestants (42 per cent). At 45 per cent white, non-Hispanic Americans were far less supportive of gun control than non-whites (66 per cent), the poll found.
Still, there was broad public support against carrying concealed guns into a place of worship (76 per cent), a government building (73 per cent) or on a college campus (77 per cent).
Opinions differed among people with various religious and political beliefs. Nearly a third (32 per cent) of white evangelical Protestants, 27 per cent of white mainline Protestants, 18 per cent of the religiously unaffiliated and 14 per cent of Catholics favoured the right to bring arms into a place of worship.
As for political affiliations, those identifying with the conservative Tea Party movement supported allowing people to bring concealed guns to church at 55 per cent, followed by Republicans at 38 per cent, Independents at 17 per cent and Democrats at nine per cent.
Protestants were twice as likely as Catholics to favour being able to bring a gun into church, PRRI research director Daniel Cox said in a statement.
“White evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants are also substantially more likely than Catholics to own guns,” he said.
The right to bear arms is a hot button issue in the US after a series of fatal shootings. A gunman shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin early this month, just weeks after another assail-ant had gunned down 12 people at a screening of Batman film The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.
Three in 10 Americans said stricter gun control was the most important measure to prevent shootings, while one in five (22 per cent) pointed to the need of better detection of mental illness and 19 per cent put their trust in God and in morality.
Still, 11 per cent said that allowing more citizens to bear arms was the best course of action, a view three times more likely among Tea Party members.