Thursday, April 24, 2014
Mainers are more likely to own guns than most Americans, but they're also more supportive of increasing restrictions, such as banning semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, according to a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll.
Thom Watson of Bath says Maine hunters might be willing to give up high-capacity magazines. "Nobody I know carries them," he said.
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer
Sarah Russell poses Friday with her children, from left, Olivia, 9; Annie, 7; George, 3; and Charles, 5, in Cumberland. Russell supports hunting and gun ownership rights and allows hunting on her property, but she also believes in tighter restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
While the poll results appear contradictory, they reflect Maine's traditional gun culture, said Scott Bahr, senior consultant with Portland-based Critical Insights, which conducted the poll for the newspaper between Jan. 7 and Jan. 9.
Mainers are fiercely protective of their gun rights -- only 5 percent want to outlaw guns, according to the poll. Yet most Mainers view military-style weapons as being impractical for hunting and home protection, he said.
"Here, people take pride in their guns and have had guns in their families for generations," Bahr said. "They don't want an all-out ban, but they want some reasonable restrictions."
The poll, based on telephone interviews with 600 adults in Maine, comes as both Congress and the Maine Legislature prepare to debate whether to increase regulations on firearms in response to the mass shooting last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. A lone gunman using assault weapons and high-capacity magazines killed 20 children and six educators.
A third of Mainers say the shooting has made them more likely to support stricter gun control laws, the poll found, and 79 percent of Mainers support some restrictions on owning guns.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 4 percentage points for statewide results, also sheds light on differences in gender and region on gun control attitudes. Here are some of the poll's key findings:
The majority of Maine adults -- 55 percent -- report having a gun on their property. That is 8 percentage points higher than the response to the same question in a national Gallup poll conducted in October.
Among the residents who personally own or have guns in their household, 73 percent use their guns for hunting.
The subgroup of Maine residents who are most likely to favor some restrictions on guns are those who have guns in their household but do not personally own the guns (91 percent).
Many women whose spouses own guns support more restrictions, such as Alisa Austin, 55, of Canton.
"I don't see anything wrong with hunting guns and such, but I don't see the need for automatics that keep shooting and shooting," Austin said.
Her husband, who hunts deer, ducks and partridge, disagrees, she said. "He's not for gun control. He doesn't like the gun-control mentality."
Many Mainers own multiple guns. Charles Harrison, 73, who lives on a 100-acre farm in Lyman, owns five guns, including a shotgun and small-caliber rifles. He uses the guns to kill small animals on his farm.
Because Maine has more hunters than most other states, children here are better educated about gun safety, he said. He said there should be no government restrictions on gun ownership, except to keep them out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people.
"As far as regulations, what we have now is pretty good," he said.
SUPPORT FOR GUN LIMITS
The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll found that 79 percent of Mainers support some restrictions on owning guns, and 61 percent support banning high-capacity ammunition clips that can hold more than 10 bullets.
Slightly more than half of Mainers -- 51 percent -- support banning semi-automatic guns, which automatically reload when the trigger is pulled. Nationally, 44 percent of Americans support such a ban, according to a Pew Research poll conducted after the Sandy Hook shootings.
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Charles Harrison, 73, seen Friday at his farm in Lyman, owns five guns and says there should be no government restrictions on gun ownership. "As far as regulations, what we have now is pretty good," Harrison says.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer