While incidents like the shooting in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured 58 tend to revive the national debate of gun control laws, Americans continue to be split pretty evenly on the issue, according to national polls and surveys.
Among minorities, however, the gap between those who favor stronger restrictions and those who don’t is wider.
A Pew Research Center study released in April shows that, unlike the general American opinion, a majority of Latinos and blacks – the people most impacted by gun violence – support stricter gun laws.
The study found that only 29 percent of Latinos and 35 percent of blacks said protecting the rights of Americans to own guns is more important than controlling gun ownership. The response from whites was very different – 57 percent of them said protecting gun rights is more crucial than gun control.
Another survey released in 2011 by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition showed that a majority of Latinos support stricter laws governing the sale of guns. The survey found that 86 percent of Latinos support mandating a background check on all gun sales. It also indicated that 76 percent of Latinos believe that those who don’t meet their state’s legal requirement to purchase a gun should not be allowed to carry a loaded gun in public.
“Latinos clearly put a priority on gun safety and prefer measures that make laws governing gun sales stricter and that prioritize their individual state laws over laws originating in other states,” stated Joshua Ulibarri, a partner at Lake Research Partners, the public opinion research firm that conducted the 2011 study.
Researchers suggest that the increasing gun violence in Latin America may be the main reason why Latinos support strict gun control laws in the United States. And as the Hispanic population continues to grow, they say Latinos may be a driving force that will change the general public opinion on gun control laws.
Other studies have also revealed that Latinos and blacks suffer from firearm violence in far greater proportions than the U.S. population as a whole.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, gun homicides are responsible for most firearm deaths among Latinos and blacks, whereas gun suicides account for most firearm deaths among whites and American-Indian/Alaska Natives.
Andy Pelosi, executive director for States United to Prevent Gun Violence, said there’s still not enough data to show the full scale of gun violence among Hispanics.
“I don’t think people realize how bad Hispanics are impacted by gun violence,” Pelosi told VOXXI. “It’s an important group that needs attention.”
He pointed out that the most recent data showing the impact of gun violence among Latinos was released more than a decade ago by the Violence Policy Center.
When the study was conducted in 2001, only 11 percent of Hispanics owned guns, compared to 16 percent of blacks and 27 percent of whites. The study found that though a low percentage of Hispanics owned guns, they were murdered with firearms at rates second to blacks.
A spokesperson for the Violence Policy Center told VOXXI the organization expects to release new findings on this isseu by the end of the year.