An overwhelming majority of Americans, particularly whites, are adamant about the constitutional right to bear arms, a poll showed this week amid a rash of shootings across the United States.
More than two thirds -- 68% -- of respondents said the Second Amendment right is as important as other rights enshrined in the US Constitution, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, according to a survey published Wednesday by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).
Some 75% of whites agreed, compared to 56% of non-whites.
Americans were divided over gun control. A slim majority of 52% backed tougher gun control laws, against 44%, but the differences were stark between different religious and political groups, races and gender.
Six in 10 Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans (62 and 60%, respectively) said they favoured more restrictions, compared to less than half of white evangelical Protestants (35%) and white mainline Protestants (42%).
White, non-Hispanic Americans, at 45%, were far less supportive of gun control than no-whites (66%), the poll found.
Still, there was broad public support against carrying concealed guns into a place of worship (76%), a government building (73%) or on a college campus (77%).
Opinions differed among people with various religious and political beliefs. Nearly a third (32%) of white evangelical Protestants, 27% of white mainline Protestants, 18% of the religiously unaffiliated and 14% of Catholics favoured the right to bear arms in a place of worship.
As for political affiliations, those identifying with the conservative Tea Party movement supported allowing people to bring concealed guns to church at 55%, followed by Republicans at 38%, Independents at 17% and Democrats at 9%.
Protestants were twice as likely as Catholics to favour being able to bring a gun into church, PRRI research director Daniel Cox said in a statement.
"White evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants are also substantially more likely than Catholics to own guns," Cox said.
The right to bear arms is a hot button issue in the United States after a series of fatal shootings.
A gunman shot and killed six people at a Sikh Temple in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin early this month, just weeks after another assailant gunned down 12 people at a screening of Batman film The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.