Poll shows high rate of gun ownership in state

Published 9:38 pm Sunday, July 20, 2008

MOBILE – A new survey shows that about two-thirds of Alabamians own a gun and nearly half have permits to carry concealed weapons.

Of the 424 people surveyed for the Press-Register/Universtiy of South Alabama poll, 66 percent said they own a gun and 46 percent say they have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The survey, conducted by telephone last Monday through Thursday, has a margin of error of 5 percent.

More than 80 percent of those polled said they agree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month that overturned a handgun ban in the nation’s capital.

“It’s not surprising, given the fact Alabama is a relatively conservative state where it’s not only a constitutional issue, but a lot of people have guns and a lot of people hunt,” said Keith Nicholls, director of the USA Polling Group.

Alabama has some of the least restrictive gun ownership laws in the country. Permits to carry guns are only required for concealed weapons, and handgun owners are not required to be licensed.

Of those who said they owned guns, 67 percent said they owned a handgun, 54 percent had a rifle and 56 percent had a shotgun.

The poll results show a rate of gun ownership in Alabama nearly twice that nationwide, said Doug Pennington, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Rachel Parsons, spokeswoman for the Virginia-based National Rifle Association, said the poll further confirms that a majority of Americans believe the Second Amendment protects the right to own firearms.

Just over half of those polled, 53 percent, said they don’t keep their weapons loaded at home.

Despite heavy support for gun ownership, Alabamians do agree with some restrictions. Of those surveyed, 67 percent said felons who have served time should not have a right to own a gun, while 77 percent said they favor outlawing ownership of fully automatic weapons.

The poll also found wide disparities in gun ownership. Eighty percent of rural respondents said they own guns, while 54 percent of those in suburban areas said they own guns. Gun ownership was 75 percent among whites but only 40 percent among blacks. Among suburban gun owners, 61 percent said they keep their guns loaded, while only 40 percent of rural gun owners do so.

“My speculation is that people have more practical uses for weapons in rural areas,” Nicholls said. “In suburban areas, they’re more concerned about protecting themselves.”