Nearly half of Utah adults have a gun in their house. And almost a third of them say they do so for personal protection.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll also found continued strong affirmation for extreme risk or red flag laws that allow immediate family members or police officers to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from those who appear to pose a serious threat to themselves or others.

The poll shows 49% of registered Utah voters own a firearm, while 51% do not. Those results closely mirror a 2022 Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll.

Among those who identified themselves as gun owners, 31% have a firearm for personal protection, 21% for hunting and 15% for target or sport shooting. Another 9% say they have a gun because it’s a constitutional right, while 2% say they’re collectors. Only 1% say they’re storing a firearm for someone else. Twenty-one percent say they have a gun in the home for reasons other than those.

Guns have again risen to the forefront of the public consciousness after a spate of deadly mass shootings across the country this year, including one in Utah where a father shot his wife, five children and mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself in their Enoch home.

In another highly publicized case, a 6-year-old shot his teacher at a Newport News, Virginia, elementary school. The teacher was critically wounded. The family says the gun was secured in the home when the first grader took it.

Democratic lawmakers, some bolstered by newly won control of the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in their states, are eager to pass new bans on semi-automatic rifles, red flag laws and background checks to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially violent people, according to Pew.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators with strong majorities want their states to join the 25 that already allow residents to carry firearms without a permit, what many proponents call “constitutional carry” laws. Over the past five years, 11 states have enacted such laws.

Utah is one of them. Gun owners no longer need to obtain a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon and take an accompanying training course covering gun safety, shooting fundamentals, federal and state laws, and suicide prevention.

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The Utah Legislature has several gun-related bills under consideration in its general session, including a Republican proposal declaring the state’s commitment to the 2nd Amendment and barring the state and its cities and counties from enforcing federal laws that restrict or ban certain firearms, ammunition or accessories. Another GOP bill would waive the concealed carry permit fee for school teachers.

A bill that appears headed for passage would create a voluntary firearm restricted list that allows a person to request to be restricted from buying or possessing guns for a certain period of time or indefinitely.

A Democratic Utah lawmaker has a measure that would directly impact gun owners by requiring all firearms in the home to be securely stored or rendered inoperable by a locking device. Violators would be subject to a $1,000 fine.

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AR-15 and AK-47 rifles are displayed on a wall at Impact Guns in South Salt Lake.
AR-15 and AK-47 rifles are displayed on a wall at Impact Guns in South Salt Lake on July 6, 2022. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

One measure not on the legislative agenda this year is a red flag law. The Republican-led Legislature has rejected such bills — introduced by a GOP lawmaker — at least three times in recent years.

But the Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll found 76% of Utahns favor laws that allow family members or law enforcement to use an order to temporarily remove guns from a person who is seen as a risk to themselves or others. Only 20% oppose them, while 5% don’t know.

Among Democrats in the survey, support jumped to 96%, while for Republicans it was 67%. Only respondents who identified themselves as “very conservative” were under 50% approval.

The overwhelming support for red flag laws in Utah is higher than it was last summer. In that June 2022 survey, residents also voiced strong backing for raising the age to buy guns to 21, requiring background checks for all gun sales and banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address this week again called for a federal ban on assault weapons.

The Deseret News/Hinckley poll revealed stark differences in gun ownership based on political affiliation and ideology.

Among Republican respondents, 58% have a gun in the home, compared to 28% of Democrats.

Nearly two-thirds of Utahns who consider themselves conservative own a firearm, while less than a third of those who consider them liberal have a gun in the house, according to the survey. Among moderates, 43% keep a gun in the home and 57% do not.

Also, lower-income residents were less likely than higher wage earners to have a gun. At 57%, people age 41 to 56 had the highest gun ownership among all age groups.

Personal protection topped the list for having a gun in the home in each demographic in the poll.

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Utahns on guns: Red flag laws? Yes. Assault weapons ban? Yes. Universal background checks? Yes

Gun ownership in Utah is at or slightly higher than the national average, according to various research.

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The Rand Corp. published a study in 2020 that estimated the average household firearm ownership rate from 1980 to 2016 using a variety of different measures. The estimate for Utah came in slightly lower than survey results.

Rand’s research found 46.8% of Utah adults say they live with at least one gun, placing the state near the middle among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Nationally, 4 in 10 adults say they live in a household with a gun, including 30% who say they personally own one, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2021.

In a Gallup survey conducted in August 2019, gun owners were most likely to cite personal safety or protection as the reason they own a firearm.

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