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CBS News Poll: Will gun violence increase in the next decade?

Nearly half of Americans (47%) think gun violence will increase in the U.S. over the next ten years, according to a new CBS News poll released Sunday. Just 14% think gun violence will decrease.

Americans differ on what causes gun violence. The availability of guns and current gun laws is the top answer -- particularly among Democrats -- though lack of gun training, crime, mental health issues, moral values, and other causes are also volunteered by many Americans.

Slightly more than one-third of Americans (38%) lives in a gun-owning household, while 59% do not. The majority of those in gun-owning households (57%) think their guns make their households safer, while those who do not own a gun are more skeptical (with only 22% believing that owning a gun makes you safer).

Protection (31%) and hunting (27%) are the most-sited reasons Americans own guns; and most Americans who live in a gun-owning household own more than one gun (one in five own at least 10).

Most gun owners have had some type of formal training on how to operate their firearms, though most have not had training in the past ten years. One in five has never had formal training.

The Rise of Gun Violence

Americans are generally pessimistic about the direction of gun violence in America. Nearly half of Americans (47%) think gun violence will increase in the U.S. over the next ten years, while another 34% think the level of gun violence will stay about the same. Just 14% think gun violence will decrease.

Over the Next Ten Years, Gun Violence in the U.S. Will...

Increase 47%
Decrease 14
Stay the same 34

Republicans, Democrats, and independents -- and gun owners and non-gun owners alike -- tend to think gun violence will increase over the next decade.

When it comes to what causes gun violence, Americans give a variety of answers. The top choice (picked by 17%) is the availability of guns, including gun laws being either too lax or not enforced enough. Tied for second place is lack of gun training (9%) and crime (9%), followed by mental health issues (8%). Further down are moral and family values or a lack thereof (7%), prescription drugs and medication (6%), poverty and economic issues (5%), and bad parenting (5%).

Democrats tend to see the availability of guns and gun laws as the primary factor for gun violence, while Republicans and independents are more likely to pick a variety of different causes.

Primary Cause of Gun Violence in America

Total Reps Dems Inds
Availability of guns/gun laws 17% 11% 28% 11%
Lack of gun training 9 11 9 9
Crime/criminals/gangs 9 11 6 10
Mental health issues 8 10 7 8
Moral values/family values 7 9 3 8
Prescription drugs/medication 6 7 4 6
Poverty/economic issues 5 3 5 5
Bad parenting 5 7 5 4
Media sensationalism/publicity 3 2 2 4

Gun Ownership

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say that they live in a household with a gun (including 26% who own a gun personally), while 59% of Americans do not have a gun in their household. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans have a gun in their household, compared to 38% of Independents and 26% of Democrats.

Just 30% of Americans who live in cities live in gun-owning households, compared to 41% of Americans who live in the suburbs, and 53% of Americans who live in small towns or more rural areas. Regionally, Americans who live in the Northeast are less likely to own a gun than Americans who live elsewhere.

Do You Own a Gun?

Yes (self) Yes (household) No gun in household
Total 26% 38% 59%
Men 37% 44% 54%
Women 16% 34% 63%
Republicans 42% 57% 39%
Democrats 16% 26% 74%
Independents 25% 38% 58%
Northeast 21% 29% 70%
Midwest 26% 42% 56%
South 27% 41% 56%
West 29% 39% 58%
Cities 20% 30% 66%
Suburbs 27% 41% 58%
Small town/rural 36% 53% 44%

Thirty-one percent of Americans in gun-owning households say their guns are mainly for protection, while 27% say they are mainly for hunting. Fewer own guns for target practice or sports shooting (13%), for work (3%), or because they inherited them (2%), while 16% say their guns serve a combination of purposes.

Main Reason for Owning a Gun?

(Among Respondents in Gun Owning Households)



Hunting 27
Target/sport shooting 13
Work 3
Inherited 2
Combination 16

Just one in five Americans who lives in a gun-owning household owns one gun, and most own more than two; 19% of Americans who live in gun-owning households have ten or more guns. Americans who own guns primarily for hunting tend to have more guns than those who own them for protection.

How Many Guns Does Your Household Own?

(Among Respondents in Gun-Owning Households)

Total Households Own gun primarily for protection

Own gun primarily for hunting

20% 26% 17%
Two 14 19 11
Three to Five 22 18 30
Six to Nine 8 7 7
Ten or more 19 11 25

Gun Training and Safety

Most gun owners have received formal training on how to use the guns or firearms they own, though just under half have had training within the past 10 years. About a third last received formal training on their firearm more than ten years ago, while one in five gun owners have never had any formal training on the guns they own.

When Did You Last Receive Formal Firearm Training?

(Among Personal Gun Owners)

In the past year 18%
One to five years 19
Five to ten years 12
Over ten years ago 32
None 19

Although federal law prohibits children under the age of 18 from owning and operating handguns, whether minors can own and operate other types of firearms varies from state to state. How Americans feel about this depends on whether or not they themselves live in a household with guns. Americans who live in gun-owning households are divided, while most Americans who do not have a gun in their household think this should not be allowed (78%).

Should Children Under 18 Be Allowed to Own and Operate Some Types of Firearms?

Total Gun-owning Household No Gun in household
Yes 31% 48% 18%
No 65 47 78

These two groups also differ on whether or not owning a gun makes your household safer. Fifty-seven percent of Americans in gun-owning households say their home is safer because of it. Americans without guns in their households are more skeptical -- just 22% think owning a gun would make them safer.

Owning a Gun Makes Your Household...

Gun in household No gun in household
More safe 57% 22%
Less safe 4 26
No difference 36 46

This poll was conducted by telephone March 2-6, 2016 among a random sample of 1,019 adults nationwide, including 399 respondents who live in a household that owns at least one gun or firearm. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, Pa. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.

The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for respondents in gun owning households could be plus or minus five percentage points. The error for other subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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