Most Americans support gun rights, to a point, survey finds.

Most Americans believe the Second Amendment gives people the right…

Most Americans believe the Second Amendment gives people the right to keep a gun at home, but they still favor limits on certain weapons, according to a new survey co-authored by Nathaniel Persily, the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Political Science.

“At a base level, Americans believe in the right to bear arms and own a gun,” said Persily, who collaborated on the poll with Harvard University Professor Stephen Ansolabehere.

Persily, a leading constitutional scholar and political scientist, is also the Director of the Center for Law and Politics at Columbia Law School, and co-edited the book Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy, which examined the effect court decisions have on public opinion.

Some 76 percent of the 1,027 persons surveyed online by Knowledge Networks oppose attempts to ban handgun ownership. Almost as many—72 percent—believe the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to own a gun, while 25 percent say the “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” found in the amendment is confined to forming a militia.

“The Supreme Court’s recent decisions confirming an individual’s right to own a gun, while recognizing the constitutionality of some limits, has broad support among the American public,” Persily said.

However, the survey found most people opposed unfettered access to weapons. Some 56 percent favor a ban on carrying handguns in public places, while 61 percent would forbid ownership of assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons. Ninety percent also support registration and background checks before a gun could be bought.

On other constitutional issues, the survey found:

-Some 70 percent agree that police should have the right to stop anyone they believe is an illegal alien and request identification.

-Nearly two thirds of respondents — 65 percent — believe that the Supreme Court should not overturn Roe v. Wade guaranteeing a woma’s right to have an abortion.

-Just 36 percent support allowing a state to sentence a juvenile to life in prison for an armed burglary in which no one was killed. The federal government, 37 states, and the District of Columbia allow for such punishments. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that a life sentence for crimes of this nature was unconstitutional.

-On First Amendment issues, 56 percent would ban the sale of video games depicting extreme violence; 59 percent would allow musicians to sing songs with words others might find offensive, but only 27 percent support the right of someone to burn or deface the American flag as a form of political expression.

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  • Eric

    There appears to be a new attack on concealed carry from a number of sources; probably polesters tooking for any opportunity to advance the gun control agenda and keep their funders happy. Also, looks like a very small population for the poll, and it would be very interesting to see the margin of error. Furthermore, looks like politically motivated “research” to me conducted by people who have never had to make a “major” decision in any of Jeff Copper’s more nasty Color Code states of mind (e.g., “Orange,” “Red”). As far as the new attacks are concerned, the Violence Policy Center and Brady are launching attacks, but, more disturbingly, there is a current HARPER’S cover story (on shelves now at your local BOARDER’S!), “Happiness is a Well-Worn Gun,” where the author who resides in Bolder, Co., obtains a CCW permit. The article indirectly attacks CCW as reckless and CCW carriers as paranoid by use of vague criticisms and off-hand humor as well as examples from detective fiction. The author also discount’s Jeff Cooper’s famous color codes of awareness. Even jokes about the benefits of living in “Condition White,” the state of non-awareness — disturbing lack of reality! There are brief acknowledgements about the benefits of CCW (e.g., Lott’s research,…), but the author quotes unnamed friends who essentially state they don’t want to know the factS and don’t care if they are in fact safe; they just want to “feel safe,” and knowing anyone carrying a gun makes them feel “unsafe.” The author also laments at the lack of rigorous training standards; which, of course, is an old anti-gun tactic. I was tempted to contact HARPERS and let them know their writer probably was a risk to the public by carrying a firearm with his own lack of training and improper mindset, but I figured it was a not the best audience for that. Anyway, at the end of the article, the author proclaims he is going to give up carrying his gun because it is inconvenient and unsafe. Interestingly, the author appears to be proud he isn’t responsible for protecting other people. The author also mentions he doesn’t know C.P.R. as well because the author leaves that to the trained professionals as well. I felt the author seemed proud of this. A very “head-in-the-sand” mindset with indifference to the safety of others. Perhaps this is similar to the mind of the average Democrat of UN official as well??? Very disappointing to see a large group of people struggling to impose their own fears on others and apparently proud of their de facto cowardice. Makes me very worried about the future.

  • Rick

    Those people polled think that an assault weapon and semi-automatic weapons are machine guns. How in the hell can these people be educated?