Nearly half of gun owners now say they keep firearms in their possession for security purposes, according to findings by the Pew Research Center.

The survey showed 48 percent of gun owners nationwide citing protection as the reason they own a gun, while 32 percent said they own a firearm for hunting. It's nearly a complete reversal to Pew's findings in 1999, when 49 percent of gun owners said they kept firearms for hunting and 26 percent identified protection as the main reason. 

The research also showed that Americans support new gun control legislation such as broader background checks or bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. Yet as such legislation is being debated in Washington, D.C., some state legislatures are considering laws that would attempt to nullify any new federal controls.

The survey finds that 60% of the public says that states should not be allowed to ignore federal gun laws, while 36% say that states should be able to ignore federal gun laws, if they choose to do so.

The gender differences in opinions about the impact of stricter gun laws are modest, the research found. Nearly six-in-ten women (58%) and 50% of men say stricter gun laws would reduce the number of deaths from mass shootings. The differences are comparable over whether stricter gun laws would reduce accidental gun deaths (56% of women, 47% of men).

In 1993, 76% of women said stricter laws would reduce the number of accidental gun deaths and suicides caused by guns. Men’s opinions have shown less change since then (56% in 1993, 47% today).

People in non-gun-owning households also have more positive views about the possible impact of stricter gun laws than those who live in a household with a gun, the survey said.  Majorities of those in non-gun households say that stricter gun laws would reduce deaths from mass shootings (66%) and accidents (65%), and would keep guns away from criminals (63%).

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