Support for gun control legislation in the United States is now higher that at any time in recent years.

According to a recent Harris Survey of 1,500 adults nationwide, an 80-to-18 percent majority favors a federal law "requiring that all handguns people own be registered by federal authorities." This is slightly higher than the 77-to-19 percent who favored such legislation back in 1975. Among the 43 percent of the public who own guns, federal mandatory registration of handguns is favored by 71-to-27 percent.

By 73 to 24 percent, a majority would also favor "requiring that a permit be obtained by anyone who purchases a rifle." Back in 1975, a smaller 66-to-30 percent majority felt this way. Among gun owners, a 59-to-39 percent majority now favors requiring permits in order to purchase a rifle. Such permits are not now required under the law.

There has been no changed in the 73-to-25 percent majority that continues to favor "federal laws which would control the sale of guns, such as making all persons register all gun purchases no matter where the purchases are made." Among gun owners, a 61-to-37 percent majority also favors gun control.

Gun owners turn out to be a substantial segment of the population these days, with 43 percent of the public reporting that someone in their household owns a gun. By region, the highest ownership can be found in the South, where 57 percent report ownership, followed by the West, there 46 percent own guns. Rural areas have a 61 percent gun ownership, followed by small towns at 50 percent and cities at 34 percent. Significantly, 45 percent of all whites own a gun, compared with a much lower 28 percent of blacks.

What kind of guns belong to gunowning families?

At the top of the list are rifles, owned by 72 percent of all gun owners, up from 71 percent in 1976. Nearly one-third of all the families in the country now own a rifle.

A substantial 65 percent of all gun owners posses a shotgun. This means that 28 percent of the nation's households own a shotgun.

47 percent of all gun owners have a pistol or handgun. This means that one in every five families has a handgun in the house.

Finally, 8 percent of all gun owner posses a muzzle-loader.