National Rifle Association members are extremely different from non-NRA members, according to a new Pew Research poll. Among the largest contrasts between the two groups is that 52% of NRA members own five or more guns. Among non-NRA members, the number is 24%.
Another large difference is that 53% of NRA members have a gun that is loaded and accessible. Among non-NRA members, that figure falls to 34%. The groups also have different political positions. Some 77% lean Republican, but just 58% of non-NRA members make the same statement.
Three-in-ten U.S. adults say they currently own a gun, and of that group, 19% say they belong to the National Rifle Association. While the demographic profile of NRA members is similar to that of other gun owners, their political views, the way they use their firearms and their attitudes about gun policy differ significantly from gun owners who are not members of the organization.
Beyond the different ways in which they use their firearms, guns seem to have more personal salience for NRA members than for other gun owners. Nearly half (45%) of NRA members say owning a gun is very important to their overall identity; only 20% of non-NRA members say the same. And members of the NRA are nearly unanimous in their view that owning a gun is essential to their personal freedom: 92% of NRA members say this, compared with 70% of nonmembers.
The Pew findings should be expected. There is nothing in the research that is a surprise. However, it does make for good headlines.