The nonpartisan Pew Research Center released a poll Thursday that seeks to measure Americans' relationship with guns and attitudes toward gun policies.
The survey involved 3,930 adults who were first contacted by phone and then completed surveys online during two periods: March 13-27 and April 4-18. Among those polled, 1,269 identified themselves as gun owners while 2,608 said they did not own a firearm. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Among the central findings:
—People have considerable exposure to guns, with at least two-thirds having lived in a household with a gun at some point during their lives. A little over half of those who have never owned a gun say they have fired one at some point. Also, 36 percent of Americans who don't currently own a firearm say they might be open to buying one in the future.
—The majority of gun owners have more than one firearm and nearly three-quarters of this group can't envision ever not owning one.
—Most gun owners cite protection as the motive behind having a firearm.
—Roughly 15 percent of Americans who have or do own a gun say they have fired or threatened to fire it to defend themselves, relatives or their possessions.
—Close to 40 percent say there is a loaded gun that is easily accessible to them all of the time when they're at home.
—Gun owners and those who don't own a firearm differ sharply on gun policies, except in some important areas: Both sides agree in preventing people with certain mental illnesses from purchasing a firearm, requiring background checks for private sales and at gun shows, and prohibiting people on no-fly lists from purchasing a firearm.
—Americans are divided over whether to ban assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazines and creating a federal database to track gun sales.
—There's some common ground when it comes to some proposals aimed at making a household with guns safe for children.
—Most gun owners describe themselves as white, male and Republican. Northeasterners are less likely to own a firearm than any other region in the country.