A recent wave of mass shootings in California—two of which claimed the lives of 19 people in just 72 hours—has spurred on legislative efforts to bolster restrictions on who can carry loaded firearms in public. But state lawmakers must reckon with federal court rulings that favor gun ownership rights—including a June 2022 Supreme Court decision that struck down restrictive concealed-carry laws as unconstitutional.
Seven in ten adults say they are concerned about the threat of a mass shooting in their area, according to the July 2022 PPIC Statewide Survey. Given this high level of concern, what do Californians think is more important: protecting the right of Americans to own guns or controlling gun ownership? Although the most recent PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted prior to the mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, it found that about two in three adults and likely voters prioritize controlling gun ownership, while one-third believe protecting gun ownership rights is more important. We have asked this question three times over the past decade; for the most part, majorities of adults and likely voters have said controlling gun ownership is more important—with the exception of half of likely voters in March 2013—and the shares prioritizing gun control have risen over time.
The preference for controlling gun ownership is widespread. Majorities across partisan and demographic groups as well as regions say control is more important, with one exception: 78% of Republicans favor protecting gun ownership rights (compared to 34% of independents and 14% of Democrats). There is some variation across groups in levels of support for controlling ownership. Across regions, San Francisco Bay Area residents are the most likely (74%) and Central Valley residents are the least likely (52%) to say controlling ownership is more important (61% Inland Empire, 64% Orange/San Diego, 72% Los Angeles). There are also significant gender differences: women (70%) are more likely than men (59%) to favor gun ownership control. Across racial/ethnic groups, Asian Americans and Latinos (73% each) are much more likely to hold this view than are African Americans and whites (58% each).
The shares favoring ownership control over the protection of ownership rights have grown across nearly all demographic groups, partisan groups, and regions since 2013. The largest increases are among whites (+17 points), Democrats (+16), independents (+15), 18 to 34 year olds (+15), those with some college education (+15), and those earning $80,000 or more annually (+15). Only among African Americans has there been a significant decline in the share believing controlling ownership is more important than protecting ownership rights (-19).
As Golden State residents mourn the loss of fellow Californians, and as state leaders debate ways to prevent gun violence, PPIC will continue to track the public’s views on this vital public safety issue.