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Blog Post · November 14, 2018

Californians’ Attitudes Toward Gun Control

Following last week’s tragic shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, the national debate over stricter gun policies is once again at the forefront. So far in 2018, there have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States, including more than 30 in California.

Currently, California’s gun control laws are some of the strictest in the nation. For example, the state bans assault weapons, mandates thorough background checks, and enforces a 10-day waiting period for new purchases. California also requires a minimum age of 21 for buying shotguns and rifles, and imposes lifetime bans on gun ownership for those convicted of domestic violence or involuntarily hospitalized more than twice in one year.

In PPIC’s October Statewide Survey, we asked Californians if in general, they thought the laws covering gun sales should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now. A solid majority of Californians (64%) replied that laws covering the sale of guns should be stricter; 21 percent said they should be kept as they are now, and just 13 percent said they should be made less strict. Californians are just as likely as adults nationwide to say gun laws should be stricter and slightly less likely to say laws should be kept as they are now, according to an October Gallup poll (61% more strict, 30% kept as they are now, 8% less strict).

Across political parties, an overwhelming majority of Democrats (82%), about half of independents (49%), and one in three Republicans (31%) say gun laws should be stricter. Majorities across regions and age, education, income, and racial/ethnic groups prefer guns laws to be stricter. Women (73%) are much more likely than men (55%) to hold this view.

At least six in ten Californians have said that laws covering the sale of guns should be stricter in periodic PPIC surveys since 2015. Nonetheless, Californians’ perceptions on gun laws have fluctuated in response to gun-related incidents. For instance, the share of Californians in our March survey who thought gun laws should be stricter was 9 points higher than today (73% to 64%)–a high mark in PPIC surveys, occurring in the aftermath of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Notably, Californians across many political and demographic groups in our March survey were more likely than those in our October survey to be in favor of making laws covering gun sales to be stricter. Following last week’s shooting in Thousand Oaks, Californians’ preference for stricter gun laws may increase again.

Amid widespread support for stricter gun laws, California’s newly elected leaders are positioned to play a pivotal role in shaping the future direction of gun control in the state. Along with California Democrats in Congress, governor-elect Gavin Newsom is calling for tougher gun restrictions. As we head into the new year, PPIC will continue to track Californians’ attitudes toward gun laws and how statewide leaders are working to address this issue.


domestic violence gun laws Political Landscape Statewide Survey