Americans by a wide margin say the No. 1 reason they own a gun is for their own protection, rather than for hunting or sport shooting, according to a new poll.
Some 48 percent of respondents said they owned a gun for protection, while 32 percent said hunting, and 7 percent said target or sport shooting, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center
The finding is a sharp shift from the same question asked by pollsters in 1999, Pew said.Then 49 percent of respondents said that hunting was the chief reason to own a gun, with 26 percent choosing protection, and 8 percent who said sport shooting.
The Pew survey of 1,504 adults conducted Feb. 13-18 included queries on a wide range of gun issues, from questions on gun control policies to who owns guns in America.
The poll found that gun owners in the country are largely white male, rural Republicans. While white males comprise 32 percent of the population, they account for 61 percent of gun owners.
In addition, 39 percent of the survey respondents living in rural areas said they personally own a gun, as opposed to 24 percent who live in the suburbs and 18 percent who live in urban areas.
Among other findings in the poll, 54 percent of respondents said stricter gun control laws would reduce deaths in mass shootings while 43 percent said they would make no difference. And 58 percent said tougher gun laws would make it harder for people to protect themselves, while 39 percent disagreed.
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