Gun Laws & Legislation

Poll: Young Americans overwhelmingly support right to own ‘assault weapons’

Jessica Stanton Contributor
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A vast majority of young adults under the age of 34 believe that Americans have a right to own an “assault weapon,” according to a new Reason-Rupe poll released Thursday.

Seventy percent of 18-24 year-olds and 58 percent of 24-34 year-olds indicated the government “should allow the private ownership of assault weapons.”

But a majority of older Americans disagree, with 57 percent of 55-64 year-olds and 61 percent of people over the age of 65 asserting that “assault weapons should be prohibited.”

Republicans and Democrats alike may be surprised at such results, which break with traditionally-held notions that a majority of seniors support the Republican Party, while the youth support the Democratic Party.

Overall, 51 percent said “assault weapons” should be allowed, including 68 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 33 percent of Democrats. Forty-four percent indicated that people “should be prohibited” from owning such weapons. (RELATED: Poll: Two-thirds of American voters with household guns would ‘defy’ gun laws)

However, there was little consensus among poll respondents when asked to provide a practical description of an “assault weapon.” Only half the sample even responded, with some opting to choose three separate answers.

A majority of those respondents — 29 percent — described assault weapons as “fully automatic machines guns,” in spite of the fact that since 1934, machine guns have been severely restricted from private ownership.

Twenty-seven percent of the respondents described an assault weapon as a gun that “fires rapidly,” while 23 percent indicated the size of the magazine comprised an assault weapon. Seventeen percent characterized an assault weapon as having the ability to “fire multiple rounds.”

Other responses to the ambiguous question included: powerful/dangerous gun (15 percent), military style weapon (13 percent), any weapon, i.e. knife or gun (8 percent), semi-automatic weapon (7 percent), designed to kill many people (7 percent), not for hunting or traditional protection (4 percent).

While the characterizations of so-called assault weapons varied, an overwhelming majority of respondents — 67 percent — do not believe the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban would have prevented the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had it still been in effect.

The poll sampled 1,000 adults and was conducted via telephone from Jan. 17 to 21. Notably, 40 percent of respondents self-identified as independents, versus 36 percent and 22 percent who identified with the Democratic or Republican Party, respectively. The poll has a margin of error of a plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

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