Survey: More Gun Owners Want Firearms for Protection

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Nearly half of all gun owners cited protection as the main reason for owning a gun in a new survey released Tuesday - a vast change from a survey conducted nearly 14 years ago which showed gun owners mostly bought firearms for hunting purposes.

The Pew Research Center released a survey Tuesday which showed 48 percent of gun owners purchased firearms for protection - an increase of 22 percent from the survey conducted in August of 1999. 65 percent of women listed protection as their top priority, compared to 43 percent in 1999, while 42 percent of men said protection was their main concern, up 21 points from 1999.

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32 percent of gun owners said the primary reason they own firearms is for hunting purposes - a seventeen point drop since 1999. A smaller number of gun owners cited target shooting, exercising their constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment, and for hobby as their main reasons for owning guns.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday showed that 42 percent of adults reported they or someone in their house owns a gun.

The Pew Research Center survey, which was conducted from Feb 13-18 and questioned 1,504 adults, also found that nearly six in ten of those who did not own guns in their homes would be uncomfortable with the presence of a firearm in their household.

Vice President Joe Biden suggested last month that a shotgun would be the best type of firearm to protect one's family at home and shared the advice he gave to his own wife.

"I said, 'Jill, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house," Biden said in an online forum with "Parents" magazine.

Related: Some Gun Measures Have Broad Backing, But Politics Evenly Split

"You don't need an AR-15," he said. "It's harder to aim, it's harder to use, and in fact you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself," he said.

"Buy a shotgun," he concluded.

The findings comes as Congress considers new gun control measures, including an assault weapons ban, gun trafficking legislation, universal background checks, and a bill to enhance school safety, and many states try to enact gun legislation of their own. 60 percent of those polled believe states should be required to follow federal laws.

The survey determined that the public's attitude about new gun legislation was mixed. 58 percent of people worry that stricter gun legislation would make it more difficult for people to protect their families and homes while 54 percent believe new gun legislation would decrease the amount of deaths due to mass shootings.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll found that the public had unanimous support - 91 percent - for universal background checks, and 82 percent favored making illegal gun sales a federal crime. The same poll found 57 percent of the public supports the assault weapons ban.