Americans are increasingly concerned about gun violence but that hasn’t stopped most from continuing to view the NRA favorably. Most would also like to see stricter laws covering the sale of firearms but a narrow majority still believes a ban on semi-automatic guns is a step too far.
These are the key findings from two recently released Gallup polls on the topic of guns. Since 2005 the favorable image of the National Rifle Association has decline modesty, but by a 54-38% margin most continue to view the organization positively. That’s down from a high water mark of 60% who held a favorable view of the NRA in 2005 but up considerably from the low point of 42% in 1995 not long after the September, 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban” bill was signed into law by then President Clinton.
Not surprisingly there is much polarization on views of the NRA between party affiliation. Republicans hold a favorable view of the organization by an 83-14% margin whereas Democrats are unfavorable to the NRA by a 58-36% margin. Independents with a 54-34% favorable view fall roughly in line with the national average. Additionally those with a gun/s in the household are far more supportive of the NRA (71-25%) than those who do not (40-51%). How much influence does the NRA have? By a 61-35% margin a solid majority of Americans say the NRA does not reflect their overall view on guns and gun ownership. This figure would seem to contradict somewhat the solidly favorable views the organization maintains with the American public.
The second of two Gallup polls notes the impact of recent shootings having resulted in a spike in the number of Americans who prefer stricter gun laws. 58% want laws covering the sale of firearms to be made more strict against 34% who would like to things kept the way they are now. Only 6% believe laws should be made less strict. This represents a significant increase from a similar survey conducted last year when the margin was 43-44-11%. Yet it’s still down from January, 2004 levels and way down from where it stood in the early to mid-1990s. In 1991, for instance, 78% of Americans believed laws needed to be made more strict with just 19% disagreeing. In the wake of Columbine High School massacre the margin was 65-28-5% who favored stricter, current, and less strict laws respectively.
While the reaction towards the role that guns and gun laws played in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary is somewhat muted compared to post-Columbine polling, a record number of Americans now favor brand new gun laws. For the first time since 2000 slightly more Americans (47%) favor the passage of new gun laws over those (46%) who believe existing laws should be enforced more strictly without the creation of new laws. This is a sharp increase from polling done a little over a year ago when by a record margin of 60-35% far more Americans opposed than favored the establishment of new laws.
With all that said majorities of Americans are against banning guns even as they prefer stricter limits to the access of those guns. By a 51-44% margin a narrow majority continues to oppose the banning of semi-automatic guns. This is a slight dip in opposition from polling conducted a year ago but significantly higher than the 59-39% margin who favored the ban in 2000 according to Gallup. Perhaps most surprisingly of all a record high of 74% of Americans do not believe laws should be passed to ban the purchase and possession of handguns for private citizens. Only 24% disagree and the roughly three to one ratio represents a vast cultural shift on the subject from decades past. In 1960 Gallup found that by a 60-36% margin most Americans actually preferred the banning of all handguns except for police and authorized citizens. By 1967 there were an even number of those for and against such measures and since the early-90s the gap has continued to widen.
The complexity of the gun control issue reveals itself once more in the current polling through the subject of gun restrictions. Up nine-points from similar polling conducted in 1999 some 92% of Americans favor at least some type of background checks on individuals prior to purchasing firearms. Only 7% are opposed to such checks. Americans are also solidly in favor of implementing laws that would ban the sale and possession of ‘high-capacity’ ammunition clips that contain more than ten bullets. The current margin is 62-35% in favor.
Just another example of the complexities on the issue of guns, gun ownership, special interest, and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The political war full of diverse and seemingly contradictory viewpoints rages on.