Here's How Americans Really Feel About Gun Control

In the one year since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the public’s stance on gun control has reverted largely to where it was before the tragedy.

The debate that ensued between gun rights and gun-control forces hardened the lines on each side and led to a higher intensity of opinion on both sides.

Like everything else, Americans remain 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.

The 1999 Columbine, Colo., massacre briefly pushed support toward 'controlling gun ownership' up 8 points to 65% of Americans.

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 supported protecting rights of gun ownership than controlling it.

But after Newtown, 49% thought it was more important to control gun ownership, compared with 42% who thought it was more important to protect gun rights.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, numerous polls showed that voters' attitudes toward some form of gun control were at their highest points since Obama took office.

Sources: ABC/Washington Post, Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center displayed some divides among Americans on gun-control issues in a 2011 survey. For example, 51% of men want more gun rights, compared with just 33% of women.

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

Source: Pew Research Center

Whites would rather 'protect gun rights' (51%) than control gun ownership (42%). By contrast, African-Americans turn the other way, 68-24.

Republicans prefer 'protecting gun rights' by a 69-27 margin. Democrats favour controlling ownership, 72-20. Independents narrowly side with Democrats on the issue.

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre

Source: Pew Research Center

GOP pollster Frank Luntz conducted a surprising poll after the Aurora movie theatre shooting, 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% support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun.
  • 79% support requiring gun retailers to perform background checks on all employees.
  • 75% believe concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants who have not committed any violent misdemeanours, including assault.
  • 74% 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% of NRA members agree that support for Second Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

According to a recent CBS News poll, 49% think that gun laws should be more strict. 36% think they should be kept the same.

The 49% who think that they should be more strict is up 10 points from April 2012, but down 8 points from the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. 53% of gun owners think the laws should be kept as they are.

Source: CBS News

Despite the waning support for new gun laws, 85% favour a law that would require federal background checks on all gun purchases.

That includes 84% of Republicans, 81% of Independents, and 92% of Democrats. The issue of background checks still seems the most politically palatable for Congress.

Source: CBS News

88% of Americans also favour stricter laws that would prevent those with mental illnesses from purchasing guns.

In June, regardless of their feelings on the matter of gun control, 56% said it wasn't likely Congress would pass new gun laws by the end of the year. They were right.

What has America done to stop the next mass shooting?

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