A Closer Watch on Guns?

Respondents to our survey -- 91% of them gun owners --overwhelmingly reject the notion of registering firearms

Despite episodes such as the murder of 10 people in the Washington (D.C.) area during the first three weeks of October by two snipers, gun owners see no problems with the nation's gun laws -- and they don't want anyone to mess with their rights. That's the conclusion from the responses of more than 6,000 readers to our Reader Survey on this topic posted on Oct. 24.

About 89% of those who responded identified themselves as owners of guns used for self defense, sport, or hunting (an additional 2% say they own guns but don't ever use them). Not surprisingly, in light of that, 90% said they think the availability of guns in the U.S. is about right. Some 95% said gun owners shouldn't have to register their weapons at regular intervals, and 93% objected to the idea of licensing gun owners in the same manner as states license drivers.


  Some 92% opposed "ballistic fingerprinting," or keeping track of the distinctive mark a weapon leaves on a shell casing to help track down criminals.

Asked what's the best way to reduce crimes involving guns, some 45% said better police work, and 50% said "other," with less than 4% opting for having more information available on guns and gun owners.

Finally, some 22% said they worry sometimes about being attacked by someone with a gun, while 39% hardly ever worry, and 32% said they never worry. Here are the complete details of the survey which, as always, was unscientific, since anyone who wished to could participate:

Do you:

Option Total %  
Keep a gun for self defense 3377 57.16 %
Own guns for hunting and sport shooting 1867 31.6 %
Own a gun but never use it 120 2.03 %
Not own a gun 544 9.21 %

Do you:

Option Total %  
Worry often about being attacked by someone with a gun 294 4.96 %
Worry sometimes 1331 22.45 %
Hardly ever worry 2322 39.17 %
Never worry 1925 32.47 %
Not sure 56 0.94 %

The U.S. Constitution protects the right of citizens to bear arms, and firearms are widely available via every distribution method from mail order to discount stores. Do you think the availablity of guns in America is:

Option Total %  
About right 5185 89.99 %
Should be somewhat restricted 182 3.16 %
Should be limited to gun shops that are closely regulated 277 4.81 %
Don't know 118 2.05 %

Do you think that it would make sense for anyone who buys a gun to have to register it at regular intervals, similar to the existing state-based system for registering motor vehicles?

Option Total %  
No 5660 94.62 %
Yes 302 5.05 %
Don't know 20 0.33 %

Do you think that it would make sense to license gun owners at regular intervals, just as car owners must renew their state operating licenses every two or three years?

Option Total %  
No 5563 93.18 %
Yes 371 6.21 %
Don't know 36 0.60 %

Do you think it would make sense to have "ballistic fingerprinting," in which records would be kept of the distinguishing marks a gun leaves on bullet casings in hopes of more easily tying a criminal to a crime?

Option Total %  
No 5510 92.42 %
Yes 344 5.77 %
Don't know 108 1.81 %

Which do you think is the best way to cut down on crimes involving guns?

Option Total %  
Better police work 2681 44.98 %
Having more information available on guns and gun owners 231 3.88 %
Other 2967 49.77 %
Don't know 82 1.38 %
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