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New Survey Sheds Light on Americans’ 2nd Amendment Views

By Nina Vinik, director of the Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform program

In 2008, a divided U.S. Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense.

The Court’s opinion left many unanswered questions, including the nature and scope of the right outside the home, which has prompted a slew of lawsuits by gun-rights groups seeking to clarify and expand the protection offered by the Second Amendment. Many expect the Supreme Court to revisit this issue in the near future, and -- with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to take her place -- the stakes are high.

National public-opinion research completed in December 2020 by Benenson Strategy Group offers important insights into the public’s views on the Second Amendment, with 57 percent of respondents agreeing that the way we currently interpret the Second Amendment does not place enough limits and restrictions on guns.

At the same time, the presence of guns in public spaces -- including state capitals, polling places, and even outside the homes of elected officials -- is becoming more commonplace, raising concerns about intimidation and interference with democratic institutions.

When asked about issues including the presence of guns in public spaces, the use of guns to intimidate others, and the intersection between gun rights and other constitutionally protected activity, 87 percent of survey respondents said that when a person carrying a gun uses it to intimidate someone, they are infringing on that person's First Amendment rights.

These and other findings can be viewed here and here.

The research was funded by the Joyce Foundation and the Fund for a Safer Future.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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Nina Vinik

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