Despite firearm-friendly climate, more than half of Utahns don’t own a gun

First Published      Last Updated Apr 08 2017 11:28 pm

Poll » But at 46 percent, gun-friendly state still has more firearms owners than the U.S. average, surveys show.

Utah is generally seen as a gun-friendly place.

State gun laws are permissive, more than 230,000 residents hold concealed-weapon permits, and there's a long tradition of vigorous political support for the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

That might lead to a perception that nearly every Utahn has a firearm at his or her side.

But it would be wrong.

A recent Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows that more than half Utah's registered voters — 52 percent — say they don't own a gun.

"Wow that shocks me," said Jean Hill, the government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. "If you listen to our Legislature, you would think everyone's got a gun, and it's no big deal."

The number even surprised Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council and the face of the state's gun lobby.

"We have 3 million people in Utah and a third of those are 18 or under, yet we still have a higher-than-average number of [concealed weapon] permits per capita than other states," he said, before adding that he wondered whether poll respondents answered honestly. As a group, Aposhian said, gun owners can be hesitant to talk about their weapons.

Perhaps of no surprise, however: The survey found that the share of Utahns who do own weapons — 46 percent — is significantly higher than the rate of personal gun ownership reported in multiple national polls.

A 2013 Pew Research Center poll found 31 percent of all Americans own guns. A Gallup survey from the same year placed that number at 28 percent, and 22 percent of 4,000 respondents to a Harvard/Northeastern University survey released in September 2016 reported owning guns.

The Utah poll was conducted March 15-21 by Dan Jones & Associates among 605 registered voters statewide and has a margin of error of 3.98 percentage points.

"There is less stigma against gun ownership in Utah," said Aposhian, who noted Utah makes it easy to buy and then carry those weapons. "We don't put up unnecessary roadblocks to stifle the ability to carry firearms like you see in other states."

Nation and state • Nationally, the number of households with weapons has been steadily shrinking over the past four decades, even as the number of guns owned by individuals has risen.

Gun sales in 2016 were at an all-time high with nearly 25 million in sales, according to the gun sales background checks conducted by the FBI.

Based on their survey, Harvard/Northeastern researchers estimate that just 3 percent of all adults own about half the U.S. gun supply, which as of 2015 was believed to total 270 million firearms.

Utah data appear to reflect that national trend: Overall, fewer people own weapons, but they own more of them.

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