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Dear The Truth About Guns staff,

I’m not sure if you remember me but I’m Santiago and I wrote The Truth About Guns wikipedia page a couple of months ago and contacted you about it. I’m sure you are busy but I am currently taking an AP Government class in my senior year and we were given an assignment of polling 50 or more people on a political issue with 10 questions in each poll. I’ve already made arrangements for a place to poll with my partner in a shopping district near by and our topic is gun control. I am contacting you because I was wondering if you had any suggestions for me when it came to some of the questions . . .

I am trying to see how educated people are when it comes to certain things or if they just use the political terms. For example, one of my questions is “Do you support a ban on assault weapons” and then another that says “Do you support banning certain types of semi-automatic rifles” to see if they answer yes to the first and no to the second. That way I can look at disparities and check demographic questions that I will ask in order to see education level and opinion on the issues.

If you have any suggestions I would love the help. Thanks! SL

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  1. Maybe one question asking how informed they are and then a couple of follow up questions about basic firearms knowledge.

  2. If you can put pictures in your questions show them an AR-15 and ask if this weapon should be banned. Then show them a picture of the Mini-14 ranch rifle and ask them if it should be banned.

    If you really want to throw them for a loop show them the Mini-14 tactical rifle with the collapsible stock and pistol grip and ask if it should be banned.

  3. I don’t have any question suggestions but I think this kid has designed a very great experiment. Good luck with the project.

  4. Make sure your questions are unbiased. Asking multiple forms of the same question (like the example you gave) is a great way to learn how informed people are about a specific issue. I would include a question asking people the following.

    Do you believe that certain types of guns are used more often in crimes?
    Do you believe that gun control can affect crime rates?
    Do areas with higher amounts of gun control, such as large cities, show a reduced crime or murder rate?

    I would allow for an uncertain answer. At the very least, when people answer uncertain they will realize for themselves how little they know about the topic. And you won’t get as many people who answer pro-gun control just because. The worst thing you can possibly do is ask obviously biased questions. I don’t say this as an insult, but rather as a warning. Good luck on your project!

  5. How about “Has violence in our society increased, decreased or stayed roughly the same in the last ten years?”

    • +1
      I would change it to a more specific question though. Even though murder rates have steadily dropped, many people still ‘feel’ like it is more violent. Force them to think.

      • Yes, probably something more like “Have the number of murders using a firearm increased, decreased or stayed the same in the last ten years?”

        I’d love to include something like “Select a number that best describes the number of people killed each year by ‘assault weapons’: 50 500 5000”

    • That’s a good one, because it assesses someone’s perception of objective facts and can tend to reveal various biases.

      • My thought was that it would inform other questions as well. For instance, if you see a group of people that have the perception that violence has increased, you may find them more likely to support gun control. It would be interesting to see how they get their news as well. Certainly the news overstates violence in our society to such an extent, most people believe it is getting worse. Of course, turning that into a pollable question is beyond my intellectual means this morning but maybe Santiago, the author of the piece, can put something together. Also, Santiago, good job on the Wiki page!

  6. I would ask how they feel about firearm safety classes in schools. Maybe sub questions regarding how the effects of early education on firearms can influence gun safety as a whole.

  7. Ok here’s my suggestion:
    1) Do you believe citizens should be allowed to possess the same handguns that are most commonly used by law enforcement?

    2) do you believe citizens should be allowed to possess handguns that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition?

    Good luck with your project, and please share the results!

  8. Take an existing poll that has been asked and just reword it so its unbiased. Compare results from the two

  9. Being a political poll, I would stick to policy questions rather than technical aspects of firearms. Maybe just a general question such as:

    Do you think certain firearms should not be owned by citizens?
    Some restrictions on firearms ownership have been ruled unconstitutional. Would you agree that the Constitution needs an amendment to allow more restrictions on firearm ownership?

  10. How about;

    1) Do you agree or disagree with the following sentence: ” Only law enforcement officers should be allowed to own handguns” possible answers are yes, no and I don’t know.

  11. Which of the following do you believe to be a true statement regarding items such as short-barreled rifles, automatic firearms, silencers, and supressors:

    a) These items are illegal for anyone but law enforcement agencies and military personnel to possess and own.
    b) These items are unregulated and freely available to be sold to or owned by members of the public.
    c) These items are available to the public but regulated heavily by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

  12. I think its definitely helpful, as Hannibal said above also, to ask them a general firearms question or two, maybe (I know some people are going to get miffed at this) asking them if they own any firearms, if they grew up in a house with firearms and maybe give them a chance to elaborate on the answer. Make sure to be as objective as possible in your wording.

    You can always ask people about things like a new Assault Weapons Ban or other proposed legislation. When doing my thesis test surveys, I found that asking people a question without using a familiar buzzword, sometimes made them think a little more openly about their experience with the topic.

    “Do you support additional firearms laws which have been shown to have a negligible reduction in crime?”

    Its really great to hear about younger people becoming aware much earlier than I did ๐Ÿ™‚

    • A variation of the question to determine the persons going in assumptions might be might be: โ€œDo you support additional firearms laws that would restrict civilian access to firearms:
      a. If they will likely have very limited effect on crime reduction?
      b. If they they might have some effect on crime reduction?

  13. Other questions testing basic knowledge could include “what is the legal definition of an assault weapon; what is the legal definition of an automatic firearm.” Questions like these could yield hard data on just exactly how uneducated people are about firearms and their role in crime.

    Antigun friends of mine will rail on about how criminals are “spewing lead out of automatic weapons” like it’s the 1980s (was it even that bad back then?). The guy who ran the UConn Pistol and Rifle club back in 2011 (pre Newtown) testified at the state senate, and was asked by a senator “What magazine capacity qualifies a firearm as automatic?”

  14. Do you think that citizens who can afford to hire private, armed, security personnel to protect themselves should promote and sponsor initiatives to limit 2nd Amendment rights of the average law abiding citizen?

  15. Does the 2nd Amendment give an US Citizen the individual right to own and protect themselves with a firearm?

    Does legal firearm possession lead to crime?

    Can the government claim it can regulate free speech, the practice of religion, or firearm ownership based on whether the technology used to exercise your rights today is different from when the Constitution was written?

    Did the Newtown Shooter carry an automatic or a semi-auto rifle?

    Do you support a ban on guns kept in homes?

    What percent of households in the US own guns?

    Who knows better what your rights should be, the government or you?

    What do most of the crimes in the US have in common?

    What is the most common tool of violent crime in the US? Guns? Hands? Blunt objects? Knives?

  16. Do you believe that the First Amendment (freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly) only applies to technology existent at the time of the creation of the Bill of Rights?

    Do you believe that the Second Amendment (right to keep and bear arms) only applies to technology existent at the time of the creation of the Bill of Rights?

    Do you believe that the Fourth Amendment (secure against unreasonable searches and seizures) only applies to technology existent at the time of the creation of the Bill of Rights?

    The built-in bias of respondents should be be self-evident if a respondent answers disparately from one question to the next.

    • I like this a lot. Libs tend to be very hypocritical about what rights they are in favor of protecting.

  17. How many machine guns have been used in crimes in the past 10 years?
    A) < 5
    B) < 50
    C) < 500
    D) < 5,000
    E) < 50,000

    How many "silencers" have been used in crimes in the past 10 years?
    A) < 5
    B) < 50
    C) < 500
    D) < 5,000
    E) < 50,000

    • What is the caliber of the most lethal round with respect to actual U.S. civilian fatalities [1965-2014]?:

      A) .22
      B) .38
      C) 5.56
      D) 7.62

    • “Are private citizens, who are legally authorized to carry a concealed firearm…”

      I like your premise, but the audience likely has 3rd-grade reading skills. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. I like asking (moderately easy) questions about semi-autos vs assault weapons in order to sort on basic knowledge by demographics.

    As someone mentioned above, I would throw in some policy questions, particularly about the right for people to carry firearms for self protection (and maybe open carry handguns vs concealed carry vs open carry of rifles).

  19. Most gun owners are very sensetive about directly answering if they own a gun, and there are also many responsible gun users that are not owners themselves. In some ways I would categorize these people the same way. I think a way to reveal this group is to ask some questions that test knowledge.

    I like the idea of having general gun knowledge questions, such as defining caliber, magazine, barrel shroud, semi automatic, etc. but also have a question about gun safety. I suggest “Which of the following is the most important rule about gun safety” with several answers, (keep guns away from children, store ammo and firearms seperately, read the manual before operating) and then one of the 4 rules (always treat the gun as if it were loaded).

    • “Most gun owners are very sensetive about directly answering if they own a gun”

      Agreed. And reflected in why ‘polls’ show that gun ownership is ‘decreasing’ or ‘being concentrated into current ownership’.

      “Hello, do you own a gun?”

      “No, piss off.” /click

      • Aren’t there ways to get people to answer correctly though with appropriately worded questions? Like “If I asked you if you owned a gun would you answer honestly?” I do not think they try to do that in the General Social Survey.

        What would be interesting is to correlate the answers with Big Data to see who does not admit to owning firearms but searches for ammo.

        • Heh.

          I see here, Mr. Thomas, that you’ve order 172K rounds of various ammunition, but you responded that you don’t own any firearms.

          Yep. I just like shiny objects.

        • The problem is the question is still about the question. Or rather, the savvy reader asks themselves “what is this question really asking?”.

          If you’ve ever had to take a psych or profile evaluation test, you’ll know what I mean.

          For example:

          Would you rather:

          (1) attend a baseball game with friends
          (2) listen to music by yourself

          Are they really asking about whether you like baseball or music? No, the question is asking if you’d rather be around people or by yourself. Unfortunately, those who like baseball, but might otherwise like to be by themselves, or those who don’t like baseball, but would otherwise rather be with friends, are getting lumped into groupings based on social preferences, rather than the stated question itself.

          Asking a question about whether you’d answer a question, still implies the first question (wait, who’s on first?) as it is still logically (and emotionally, perhaps more important to the reader) tied to the original question.

  20. I would propose the following question:
    Should people that can’t be trusted with a gun be allowed to be free among us?

    • The sad part is a number of the respondents would probably be just fine with corralling up those unsavory types and putting them somewhere out in ‘flyover country’. Maybe working a farm to produce soy for their lattes and wheatgrass.

  21. As an AP teacher, I would love to have this type of student in my class, I can barely get mine to have a debate. I especially like the question about assault vs semi-auto firearms. I would be interested in peoples opinions about non-violent ex-criminals being able to own guns. Ex: You make a stupid mistake when you’re 19, but around the age of 40 want to begin hunting or target shooting, should you still be ineligible to purchase a gun due to your stupid mistake (non-violent)?

    Hopefully his results will be shared here once all the data is collected, I also hope he is able to get an even larger sample than just 50. Good Luck kid!

    • Thats a great question.
      Especially since stupid felonies (literally fishing in the wrong pond) can get your firearms rights systematically revoked.

  22. What is the cause of greater deaths for children under the age of 12, drowning in a pool or an accidental discharge of a firearm?

  23. How about 1 question be “Should we ban ‘Assault Rifles'” and another be “Should we ban Modern Sporting Rifles”?

  24. Follow up question to people who want to ban guns:

    Q. Would you be in favor of banning

    [private ownership of cars]
    [swimming pools unless staffed by a professional lifeguard]
    [alcohol consumption]

    if doing so would save the lives of more than
    [100 children]
    [1000 children]
    [10000 children]

    per year?

    • That should be one of those ‘connect the line’ diagrams.

      Lives on one side, object/activity on the other. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. How about these?

    1. Do you believe all guns should be banned?

    2. If guns are banned should some people, like celebrities, be able to hire armed guards?

    • And ask the reciprocal question:

      As a law-abiding citizen, do you believe that some people should have rights that you are denied?

  26. Put this quote on your survey, ask them if they agree/disagree/etc. with it, and then ask them to define “shall not be infringed”: โ€œA well-educated populace being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books shall not be infringed.โ€

    Then, later in the survey, do the same with this quote: โ€œA well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.โ€

    P.S.: Nifty project, Santiago – thanks for your work to educate your peers.

  27. Do you think that gun control laws:

    a. make society safer, or,

    b. help to create an environment conducive to crime?

  28. Ask them for a definition of semi-automatic rifles. Ask them for a definition of automatic weapons. Ask if they think on line firearms sales are unregistered. Good luck cause libs won’t be turned by facts.

    • It is not the purpose of a poll to educate the public. The point is to gather information. He needs ten questions so he needs more suggestions than the “assault rifle” quiz. Come on people, get creative.

      How about this one:
      Do you think teachers should be able to carry guns in school?
      Do you believe off duty police officers should not be allowed to carry guns where the general public is not allowed to carry guns?

      • No offense but poll results are used to influence public opinion by those who’s arguments are supported by the results of any give survey. Polls are deceptively manipulative in the sense responses are affected by the sentence structure and adjectives used in the questioning. The order of questions also has some impact on results.

        • No offence taken. You are not completely correct. Most polls are taken in order to gain information.
          A restaurant may be interested in updating its menu so they take a poll to see if it has merit.
          I understand that there are biased polls out there but to say all polls are designed to sway public opinion is not correct.

  29. Who do you feel is the most appropriate subject matter expert with regards to decisions that have a lasting affect on violent crime
    a) Politicians
    b) Police Officers
    c) Criminals
    d) Average Citizens

    the point here is to put this against the PoliceOne survey of cops where the VAST majority of them say gun control is useless and has no appreciable affect on criminal activity

  30. Do you believe Drivers Ed should be taught in schools?
    Do you believe Sex Education should be taught in schools?
    Do you believe Firearms Education should be taught in schools?

  31. โ€œDo you support a ban on assault weaponsโ€
    โ€œDo you support banning certain types of semi-automatic riflesโ€

    Many people do not understand the difference between automatic and semi-automatic, so continue this series of questions with:

    โ€œDo you support banning firearms that can be fired several times with as many pulls of the trigger?โ€

  32. This is a good idea and there is some precedence for it. A majority of people are in favor of the Affordable Care Act and against “Obamacare,” for instance.

  33. I’d like to see if anyone can tell you, without the help of a picture, what an assault rifle even is.

    • Again with the assault rifle thing?
      Yeah nobody suggested that one yet…only thirty times!
      You people are like the photo caption contest posters. 50 people will submit the same caption (that isn’t even clever) then somebody else will come along and say it again. Man that chaps me!

      How about: The 2nd amendment to the Constitution can be interpreted to require that the average citizen be able to arm himself with the same weapons as a U.S. military foot soldier. Do you agree with that interpretation?

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