WASHINGTON - A new survey reveals Americans are deeply divided on gun policy issues, just as they are over immigration, health care and other political matters that have polarized the nation.
The survey, released Thursday by Pew Research Center, found sharp differences among gun owners and those who don't own firearms.
More than half of gun owners support the creation of a federal database to track gun sales, while 80 percent of non-gun owners support such an effort.
Just fewer than half of gun owners favor a ban on assault weapons, compared to nearly 80 percent of those who do not own guns.
On the issue of banning high-capacity magazines, nearly 45 percent of gun owners support a ban, while nearly three-quarters of non-gun owners do.
There is common ground, however, among gun owners and non-gun owners on the issue of preventing people with certain mental illnesses from buying firearms. Nearly 90 percent of respondents from both groups believe the mentally ill should be prevented from purchasing firearms.
Background checks supported
The survey shows about 80 percent of those who own firearms believe people on federal no-fly or watch lists should be barred from purchasing guns.
Strong majorities of both groups support background checks of those who buy guns through a private transaction and at gun shows.
The survey also found that at least two-thirds of Americans have lived in a household with a gun. Just over half of the respondents who have never owned a gun have fired one before.
Of Americans who own firearms, 15 percent say they have fired or threatened to fire it for defense purposes.
Loaded, easily accessible
Almost 40 percent of gun owners say their guns are loaded and easily accessible at all times when they are at home.
Among those polled, nearly 1,300 identified themselves as gun owners while more than 2,600 said they were not.
Most gun owners described themselves as white male Republicans.
The survey also found that residents of the northeastern U.S. are less likely to own a gun than any other region in the country.