Poll Reveals Americans Strongly Support Gun Ownership With Some Restrictions; Will it Affect Firearms Manufacturers?

The majority of Americans believe that guns should be legal, but that there should be some restrictions on their ownership.

Apr 2, 2014 at 4:09PM

The gun industry has been flying high since Barack Obama was elected president. Fear that the liberal Democrat would pass restrictive gun legislation sent people to gun stores in record numbers, ostensibly so they would have something for Obama to "pry out of their cold dead hands."

That legislation never came, but if public sentiment is an indication, new rules could be on the horizon. A new Harris Poll shows that 77% of Americans believe that firearms should come with some sort of restriction while only 14% believe there should be no limitations.

How well is the gun industry doing?

Sturm Ruger (NYSE:RGR), the largest publicly traded gun company in the country, has 2013 sales of f $688.3 million up from $491.8 million in 2012. The company had EBITDA of $195.7 million, which increased 54% from 2012's EBITDA of $127.1 million, according to an earnings release. 

Rival gun-maker Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC) had $587 million in sales in its fiscal 2013, up from $411 million in 2012, according to the company's annual report. The company also reported it had a backlog that exceeded its yearly manufacturing capacity.

Gains were not unique to Ruger and Smith & Wesson. The number of background checks performed -- a figure used to predict gun sales -- has risen steadily since Obama took office.

In 2005, there were nearly 9 million background checks performed. In 2008, the year before Obama took office, there were 12.7 million background checks, according to the FBI. "Through the first 11 months of 2013, that figure totaled more than 19 million, only about 500,000 shy of the total for all of last year," Huffington Post reported. Final 2013 numbers are not posted on the FBI's "Fact Sheet" page on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Even the gun-buying public supports some laws

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States -- the one about the right to bear arms --  has been a political hot button that few politicians are willing to openly oppose. Even massive tragedies involving guns like the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children were killed, and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre during which a student gunman killed 32 people have not led to changes in gun laws.

Still the Harris Poll showed that many Americans believe the Second Amendment does leave some room for interpretation. When presented with the text of the Second Amendment and asked whether it does or does not support a series of rights and regulatory powers, strong majorities believe it supports a state militia's right to own firearms (74%), any citizen's right to own firearms (68%), and a state's right to form a militia (65%). A slim majority (55%) also believes it grants states the right to regulate the ownership of firearms among its militia, while half (50%) believe it empowers states to regulate firearm ownership among its citizens overall, the poll showed. The poll also showed that 59% of people do not believe the federal government has the right to regulate who can own firearms.

Still that's 50% of citizens who believe that states have the right to regulate guns and 41% of the American people who believe the federal government can do so. Neither is a convincing figure, but the poll shows there is room for debate. 

Take away the absolutes

"When provided with three separate statements, a vast majority of Americans (77%) – including two-thirds (68%) of Conservatives and three-fourths (75%) of Republicans -- feel that Americans should be allowed to purchase and/or own firearms, with some restrictions," Harris reported. "Only 14% believe Americans should be allowed to purchase and/or own them without limitation while just one in 10 (9%) feel Americans should not be able to purchase and/or own firearms."

If presented with rational choices rather than political fear-mongering ("Obama wants to take away your guns," "The Tea Party is forming its own well-armed army") then Americans show a willingness to make sensible decisions. The vast majority of the public -- 91% -- support legal gun ownership in some fashion, so it's not like the vast majority of the country wants guns outlawed or even heavily regulated. It does seem from these numbers that if 77% of the country supports some level of restriction -- which we already have in most states -- that we should as a nation be debating sensible gun policy without resorting to political rhetoric.

Guns are money

Guns and the debate over the Second Amendment have not only been good for gun companies, they have been good for politicians on both sides of the aisle. Republicans can raise money with the idea that Democrats are going to take away all guns and Democrats can raise money on the idea that the GOP wants to give machine guns to toddlers. There are probably politicians on both side who actually want to do those things, but they are not the majority and this survey shows that they clearly don't speak for the people.

The school shootings and other tragedies in which guns were involved should force us into a debate about what sensible gun policy is, and as a country we should be open-minded enough to find a middle ground. The answer may be simply enforcing existing laws or taking small steps like improving background checks.

The solutions need not be extreme and they need not be bad for the gun industry (and some could even be good for it, as added technological safeguards could mean added revenue). It seems unlikely that 77% of Americans could agree on who should win Dancing with the Stars, so when we have that strong a consensus on a topic this divisive, our leaders should actually lead and help the nation find the right balance between freedom and safety.

Boost your 2014 returns with The Motley Fool's top stock
There's a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He has owned Sturm Ruger in the past. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers