In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown Connecticut a growing number of Americans are in favor of stricter gun control laws. At the same time an overwhelming majority continue to oppose the banning of handguns from society altogether. This according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll.
Numerically reaching a five and half year peak 54% now favor stricter laws on firearms such as those used by Adam Lanza to carry out his murderous rampage on Friday morning. The guns used by Lanza were purchased legally by his mother, the first victim of last week’s tragedy. While the new figure represents a modest uptick from polling in recent years it is still down considerably from the recent high of 67% percent in May of 2000 who favored stricter gun control laws. The low point was reached in September of 2008 when 50% supported new legislation.
By a margin of 59-38% a clear majority of those polled support a ban on ‘high-capacity ammunition clips’. A narrower 52-44% majority meanwhile favor a ban on ‘semi-automatic handguns’. But when asked about banning handgun sales to everyone except members of law enforcement 71% are opposed to such a measure against only 27% in support of. That said levels of intensity on the subject side with those in favor of stricter gun control in a general sense. 44% are ‘strongly’ in favor of tighter clampdowns on firearms against 32% who are strongly opposed to such measures.
Women (59%) are more likely than men (47%) to support stronger gun control laws and/or enforcement. Minorities, who tend to be victimized more in shooting incidents, are also far more in favor (72%) of stricter laws than whites (48%). Not surprisingly there is a political and ideological divide as well with 74% of Democrats and 72% of liberals in favor a stricter laws against just 29% of Republicans and 38% of conservatives. Narrow majorities of Independents (52%) and political moderates (58%) meanwhile are both on the side of stricter laws.
By a 52-43% margin most Americans now view the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary as reflective of “broader problems in American society”. That figure is noteworthy if for no other reason than in represents an increase from the 46-47% margin indicated by a Pew Research poll conducted shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. Also, and in a rare instance of agreement among party lines, narrow majorities of Democrats (51%), independents (52%) and Republicans (57%) all agree with the aforementioned sentiment.
One final highlight of the ABC/Washington Post poll asked Americans what they thought was the best way to reduce gun violence in this country. 32% believe ‘new laws’ should be passed with 49% of the opinion that existing laws must be better enforced. An additional 8% were in favor of seeing both implemented against just 7% who believed in neither. Again this represents a slight uptick in the number of those who would like to see new laws established from recent years. 49% is also the statistical low point of those favoring the enforcement of existing laws dating back to 2000.
More polling will likely be conducted on the topic in the coming weeks and months, and it will be important to take note of any shifting in public perception. Many people in the wake of tragedies tend to respond emotionally rather than rationally to hot-button topic questions. As emotions settle down and the political war over the age old Second Amendment and rights of gun owners heats up Americans as a whole might alter their opinions either for or against.