By Jackie Kucinich
WASHINGTON - American gun owners are increasingly keeping firearms for protection instead of for hunting and sporting purposes, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.
Among gun owners surveyed, 48% said they own them for protection, while 32% said they own a firearm mainly for hunting purposes. That's a large shift from 1999 when 26% of those surveyed said they owned a gun for protection, while 49% said they used it mainly for hunting, according to an August 1999 poll conducted by ABC News and TheWashington Post.
Non-gun owners also cited safety as a main reason for not owning a firearm - 39% said accidents were among their greatest concerns about having a gun.
As Congress continues to work on legislation to curb gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 schoolchildren and six adults dead at an elementary school, a majority of Americans say stricter laws would help stop another incident.
In the survey of 1,504 adults conducted Feb. 13-18, 54% said stricter laws would reduce the number of deaths caused by mass shootings, while 43% said new laws would not make a difference.
However, 58% said stricter laws would make it harder for people to protect their homes and families; 39% disagreed that new laws would leave their families with less protection.
Asked whether stricter laws would lead to guns being removed from all citizens, Americans were split - 47% said they agreed that guns would be taken, and 50% said guns would not be removed.
The poll showed that the majority of gun owners in the USA are white men who are Republican or lean Republican.
Americans in rural areas tend to own guns more often than those in suburban and urban areas. Of those surveyed, 39% in rural areas said they personally owned a gun, as opposed to 24% who live in the suburbs and 18% who live in urban areas.