America’s rifle – the modern sporting rifle – is growing in popularity.
That fact only follows logic, as lawful firearm ownership in America is on the rise through the COVID-19 pandemic and further propelled by heightened social unrest, uncertainty and acts of criminal violence. There are an estimated 2.5 million new gun owners in recent months, and that’s why the National Shooting Sports Foundation, as the firearm industry’s trade association, has been working to ensure all gun owners are aware of the fundamental rules for safe and responsible firearm use and storage.
We also wanted to understand America’s feeling about modern sporting rifles (MSR), the semiautomatic rifles that are popular with recreational shooting, hunting and increasingly used for self-defense. There are nearly 18 million of these rifles in circulation and they’re proving to be the most popular selling centerfire rifle on the market.
A recent NSSF survey of registered voters in 18 key states showed that most voters, 56 percent, see self-defense and home-defense as the most common reason for someone to own a gun. Considering about one-third of the respondents reported feeling less safe in their homes and communities, the current firearm purchasing increase is not surprising. In fact, over a third of voters have become more supportive of the rights to keep and bear arms because of the current environment.
What does this mean for the perennial debate over banning semiautomatic rifles like MSRs? According to the survey results, a majority of voters in these states oppose a so-called “assault weapon” ban, which would outlaw the popular MSRs based solely on the cosmetic features of the firearm. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents acknowledge that a ban on MSRs would not be effective for reducing crime in their communities.
Voters were also asked about their opinion on the proposals to limit the capacity of ammunition magazines. Most respondents believe that a magazine capacity limit would have “no impact at all” on reducing criminal violence or that it may increase crime. About 54 percent agree that citizens with a lawfully owned firearm should be able to choose the type and amount of ammunition they use.
With an eye on the upcoming elections, candidates should know that nearly three-quarters of voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports gun safety and education programs. This holds true across partisan divides and without regard to gun ownership.
The collective impression that can be made with voters’ voices in this study is clear: American citizens want to be able to choose the manner by which they protect themselves and their families. These results run counter to the soundbites from gun control groups which downplay the value Americans place on semiautomatic firearms, including MSRs. Americans want the ability to effectively protect themselves and their families in these uncertain times with the firearm of their choice.
The sample size for the survey is 800 likely voters in Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, and the margin of error is +/-3.5% at a 95% confidence interval, meaning that if this survey were repeated, results would not vary from the population by more than 3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20. Responses were gathered via landline and cell phone interviews conducted with live operators at a professional call center. Demographics were adjusted to reflect the population from which the sample was drawn. The survey was conducted June 23 – 28, 2020 by Harper Polling. The total percentages of responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.