More than half of Americans support generally stricter gun control laws in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a new poll from ABC/The Washington Post finds. It marks a five-year high, though it lags behind the numbers before President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.The poll shows that 54 per cent of respondents favoured “stricter gun control laws,” while 53 per cent oppose. By comparison, 51 per cent said so after a deadly July rampage in an Aurora, Colo., movie theatre left 12 dead. But 61 per cent were in favour of stricter laws after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that killed 32 and left 17 others wounded.
The findings come as lawmakers, including President Barack Obama, have signaled a willingness to push forward new legislation aimed at new gun regulations. Sen. Dianne Feinstein pledged Sunday to introduce a new assault weapons ban the first day Congress reconvenes in January. In a speech in Newtown on Sunday, Obama gave unspecific signs that he would push for new measures.
According to the poll, the public does support some specific measures, including:
- By a 52-44 margin, a ban on “semiautomatic handguns”
- By 59-38, a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips that hold more than 10 bullets
Those are two provisions that were included in the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004. But by a 71-27 margin, respondents were against banning the sale of handguns to everyone except law enforcement officials.
Here’s a chart spelling out the differences:
Photo: Langer Research
As expected, there are sharp partisan and even gender gaps found in the poll. By a 22-point margin, women favour stricter general gun control measures. Men actually oppose stricter gun control by 3 points, a 25-point swing.
Independents favour tightening restrictions. But overwhelmingly, Democrats are more likely to support gun control measures and think the Newtown tragedy was more of a “sign of societal problems.” Republicans, on the other hand, oppose new measures and are more apt to believe that Newtown was an isolated incident. But it’s worth noting that 48 per cent of self-identified conservatives do support a ban on high-capacity clips.
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