How Americans Really Feel About Gun Control

Wayne LaPierre NRA

Photo: AP

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama, various lawmakers and the National Rifle Association have been the driving forces on an increasingly loud public debate on what measures should be taken to prevent against future mass shootings.Obama announced a gun violence task force last week, and outlined proposals he supports on new gun control legislation: a renewed ban on assault-style weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, and an end to the so-called “gun show loophole” on background checks.

The NRA has pushed back on the call for new gun legislation, calling for armed officers in schools and more of a focus on mental health. Well-known Republican pollster Frank Lutz slammed the NRA in response, calling the organisation “out of touch” with its proposals.  

Are they out of touch? Like everything else, Americans are divided along party, ideological, gender, racial, and socioeconomic lines on the subject of gun control, according to years of polling on the subject. But some of America’s agreements might surprise you. 

In the last 12 years, though, there has been a rapid rise in support for gun rights. After the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colo., more people support protecting rights of gun ownership than controlling it.

But after Newtown, 49 per cent now think it's more important to control gun ownership, compared with 42 per cent who think it's more important to protect gun rights.

Numerous polls have shown that voters' attitudes toward some form of gun control are at their highest points since Obama took office.

Sources: ABC/Washington Post, Pew Research centre

The Pew Research centre displayed some divides among Americans on gun-control issues. For example, 51 per cent of men want more gun rights, compared with just 33 per cent of women.

By comparison, 57 per cent of women think it's more important to control gun ownership, vs. just 41 per cent of men.

Source: Pew Research centre

Source: Pew Research centre

Despite their differences on the overall issue of gun control, 52 per cent of Americans agree that semi-automatic weapons should be banned. The Bushmaster rifle used in the Connecticut shooting is a semi-automatic weapon.

The 52-44 split in favour is in contrast to a 48-50 split against after the shooting of Giffords in Arizona.

Source: ABC/Langer Research

Similarly, 62 per cent are in favour of a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

59 per cent of Americans favour a ban on high-capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz conducted the most surprising poll of all, one that defies conventional wisdom about NRA members.

Among the findings of the poll, which was taken in July after the Aurora movie theatre shooting:

  • 74 per cent support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun.
  • 79 per cent support requiring gun retailers to perform background checks on all employees.
  • 75 per cent believe concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants who have not committed any violent misdemeanours, including assault.
  • 74 per cent believe permits should only be granted to applicants who have completed gun safety training.

Source: American Viewpoint/Momentum Analysis, Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Also in Luntz's poll: 87 per cent of NRA members agree that support for Second Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

The bottom line: 46 per cent of Americans say that government can do something to prevent tragedies like the one in Connecticut.

That's up 13 points from the aftermath of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. But a majority -- 53 per cent -- say that these types of mass shootings will continue to happen regardless of any action the government takes.

But in contrast to the NRA's stance, most Americans do support gun measures they think will make them safer -- such as a ban on assault style weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, and heightened background checks on prospective gun owners.

Meanwhile, demand for ammunition is surging in the wake of the Newtown shooting...

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