The U.S. has the highest murder rate in the world and has a large population of gun owners, but the vast majority of Americans who own firearms say they are worried about the future of their firearms and want to keep them safe.
But those fears are spreading as more Americans own guns, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.
“There’s a real fear that guns are going to fall into the wrong hands, that people will be killed,” said Andrew Gelman, director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who are saying, ‘We just can’t wait any longer.'”
In the latest poll, conducted from July 8 to 11, about half of Americans said they were worried about guns falling into the hands of criminals and domestic abusers, including about half who reported having owned guns for more than a year.
A larger majority, 60 percent, said they feared that people who owned guns would misuse them, such as in mass shootings.
The same survey found that the public was divided over whether it should take more action to address gun violence, with 47 percent of respondents saying they wanted to see more efforts, and 45 percent saying they should focus on making people safer.
About four-in-ten Americans said that if they could change anything about the way they lived today, they would like to see the federal government work more closely with states to make it easier for people to get permits to carry concealed weapons.
While support for stricter gun control measures has grown since last year, it remains far below levels seen after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
The Pew survey also found that about half (51 percent) of Americans believe gun ownership should be a right.
And about a quarter of Americans (24 percent) say the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines should remain in place.
Gun control advocates have pushed to loosen restrictions on guns in recent years, arguing that it has been too easy for people with guns to get them and make them more lethal.
They also argue that the gun lobby is using the issue as a political weapon.
Gun rights groups have fought against such efforts, saying they would limit gun access for law-abiding citizens and allow the government to step in to protect them from gun violence.
The National Rifle Association, which has been at the forefront of the gun control movement, has been fighting back against those arguments.
The group said in a statement that the Pew poll “suggests the NRA is still focused on silencing gun owners while they continue to ignore the reality of the carnage being wrought by guns.”
More stories from the Pacific Northwest:A Washington Post review of state and federal laws in the region found that Washington and Oregon have the most restrictive gun laws in Washington, while the state with the least restrictive laws, California, has the lowest rates.
The survey found more than half of the people who said they had owned guns in the past year said they thought the government should do more to enforce gun laws.
A majority of those who said that the government needs to do more said that it should focus more on making sure that criminals, domestic abusers and other people who misuse firearms are held accountable.
The study also found an almost even split over whether the federal gun law should be expanded.
Nearly six-in_ten Americans (59 percent) said the federal law should stay the same, while nearly as many (58 percent) agreed that the law should go up.
The results suggest that more Americans want to see stricter gun laws enforced in the coming year.
“These are the same people who want to hear more about guns, but it seems like they’re more focused on trying to stop the gun industry and trying to prevent guns from getting into the hand of criminals,” Gelman said.
The most popular gun control proposal in Washington is an expanded background check system for gun sales.
About a third of Americans favor requiring all gun sales to go through a federal background check, while 42 percent say the same thing about gun purchases from private sellers.
About three-quarters of Americans also say that private sales should be allowed in certain situations.
The gun industry is also backing legislation to require more guns to be stored at gun shows and other gun shows.
About one-infection of Americans say that the sale of guns should be banned from most public places, including restaurants, bars and stadiums, and in private residences.
But there is a clear divide over how much the federal and state governments should do to make sure guns are stored properly.
About half of respondents in the Pew survey said the government must do more than it already is to make the situation more safe, while another 38 percent said it should do less.