New Survey Of Gun Owners Reveals That Half Support Gun Control, A Third Use Illegal Drugs

The results reveal that gun owners' attitudes and lifestyles are less cut-and-dry than you might think.

A new survey of gun owners reveals surprising attitudes
Jeffrey J Snyder / Shutterstock

The results reveal that gun owners' attitudes and lifestyles are less cut-and-dry than you might think.

You might think that gun owners would be the most ardent opponents of gun control. However, a new survey, commissioned by a Florida substance abuse and rehabilitation center, reveals that at least half of surveyed gun owners support at least some forms of gun control. Further, a third report illicit drug use, and 20 percent report at least some form of mental illness.

The Florida House Experience surveyed 1,098 self-reported gun owners to gauge their thoughts on the complex relationships between gun ownership, mental health, and drug use.

Surprising Support For Gun Control

While the image of a proud, yet resolute, gun owner vowing to fight any form of gun control literally with his or her life (“from my cold, dead hands,” as the saying goes), the reality is a little less cut-and-dry.

Specifically, the survey found that just 50 percent of self-identified gun owners support at least some forms of gun control. Specifically, 50.9 percent say that a tighter restriction on gun purchases is at least one way to stop gun violence.

By comparison, 66 percent of all Americans, gun owners or non-gun owners, support tighter gun control laws.

Perhaps not surprisingly, other respondents (3.38 percent) say that enforcing existing gun laws is the way to go. Others (3.6 percent) support hiring more police. A combined 14.86 percent say such things as a change in culture, a stronger focus on “family values,” or more education will help reduce gun violence.

Meanwhile, 8.9 percent support increasing mental health services.

Mental Illness And Gun Ownership

Much has been made about the mental states of recent mass shooters, such as alleged Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, and Pulse Night Club shooter Omar Mateen.

But in fact, even self-identified gun owners are willing to admit that they, too, contend with mental illness. In fact, one in three survey respondents admitted to having some form of mental illness themselves. The most reported mental illnesses by gun owners were anxiety (including panic disorder), mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Does that mean that gun owners with mental illness are destined to become mass shooters? Of course not. But the science is clear that decision-making and the function of risk-and-reward receptors in the brain are skewed among people experiencing mental health disorders. At the very least, that means those who own guns and contend with mental illness should be extra diligent about taking care of their mental health.

Illegal Drug Use And Gun Ownership

Just over a third of gun owners surveyed report that they own guns and use illegal drugs, and a fifth of respondents reported that they own guns, use illegal drugs, and have a mental illness.

Of those respondents who said they use illegal drugs, a third say they do once a year, 19.57 percent said they use illegal drugs “every few months,” 9.78 percent said they use illegal drugs monthly, 20.29 percent said they used illegal drugs weekly, and 16.67 percent admitted to using illicit drugs daily.

The most commonly used illicit drugs among gun owners are marijuana, Xanax, and cocaine. Of course, marijuana is legal in one form or another in almost half of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, yet remains illegal at the federal level.

As with mental illness, it’s premature to conclude that drug use and gun ownership means that a gun owner will use a gun in a violent act. But again, chronic drug abuse can impact the parts of the brain that affect both impulse control and rewards.

What Does It All Mean?

In the end, the survey results suggest what you may have already suspected: gun owners, while generally more protective of gun rights than non-gun owning Americans, and portrayed by gun-rights supporters as more sober and even-headed than the media would make them out to be, are otherwise just like the rest of Americas. They largely support at least some forms of gun control, and they, like many Americans, deal with mental illness and drug use in their lives.