Poll: Americans Split on More Gun Laws

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 27 2012 3:59 PM

Opinions Shift in Favor of More Gun Laws, but Not Gun Bans

Gallup's out today with the latest polling on where Americans stand on the issue or new gun laws. As you can see in the chart below, opinions appear to have changed greatly in the past year, no doubt largely due to the Newtown tragedy and a string of other recent high-profile mass shootings:

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Still, the numbers suggest that any effort in Washington to pass new laws is likely to run into strong headwinds. When it comes to specific proposals to ban certain guns, those in favor of the status quo remain strong:

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  • 51 percent of respondents said they are against any law that would make it illegal to manufacture, sell or possess "semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles" compared to 44 percent who are for such a law. That's pretty much where things stood the last time Gallup asked the question toward the end of last year, when the split was 53-43 against. For comparison, prior to 2005 a majority of Americans said they were in favor of such a ban.
  • 74 percent said they are against any law that would make it illegal to own a handgun (except by police and other authorized personel) compared to 24 percent in favor. That's the largest recorded gap since the polling outfit began asking the question back in 1959.

Instead, gun-control advocates and their allies in Congress appear more likely to find some measure of success by targeting lower-hanging fruit, like closing the so-called "gun show loophole" or banning high-capacity magazines:

  • 92 percent said they support a law that would require background checks before anyone—including gun dealers—could buy firearms at gun shows compared to only 7 percent who oppose.
  • 62 percent support a law that would ban the sale and possession of high-capacity ammunition clips that can hold more than 10 bullets at a time compared to 35 percent who oppose.

The poll was conducted Dec. 19-22. Full results here.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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