A central question in the debate over guns is whether the public prioritizes protecting gun ownership rights or controlling them. The answer? Americans are pretty evenly split over the question.
Thanks to a handy chart from the Pew Research Center, we can look at the gun-rights vs. gun-control question going back nearly 20 years. According to the most recent Pew polling, 50 percent say gun control is more important, while 48 percent say protecting gun rights is a higher priority.
In the immediate aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., the spread between gun control and gun rights was wider, but it has since narrowed. The same is true about the the last 20 years in general, as the chart shows:
It’s worth clicking on the different demographic breakdowns to get a sense of where this debate has moved and where it hasn’t.
Party is an interesting one. While Republicans were pretty evenly split over the question 20 years ago, they have moved much more heavily in favor of gun rights since then. The Democratic gap has widened much less dramatically in favor of gun control. Independents, who once stood heavily in favor of gun control, are much more evenly split now.
Race is another interesting breakdown. Blacks currently stand heavily in favor of gun control over gun rights, as they have in Pew polls dating back to December 1993. But compared to 1993, whites have changed their views. Back then, they favored gun control over gun rights by 17 points. Now, they support gun rights by a nearly identical margin, 16 points.