Poll Shows Slight Majority Support For Some Forms Of Gun Control
The first poll conducted in the wake of Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School shows majority support for some forms of gun control:
More than half of Americans say the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, reflect broader problems in society rather than an isolated act of a troubled person – more than after other recent shooting incidents, suggesting the possibility of a new national dialogue on violent crime.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll also finds that 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws in general, numerically a five-year high, albeit not significantly different than in recent years. Fifty-nine percent support a ban specifically on high-capacity ammunition clips, a step on which partisan and ideological gaps narrow substantially and “strong” support peaks.
Attitudes on gun control in the past have not shifted sharply in response to heinous gun crimes, and that appears to be the case again, at least thus far. As noted, for example, 54 percent favor stricter gun control in general; it’s been 50 to 52 percent in polls since 2008, and was higher in previous years, peaking at 67 percent in 1999 and 2000.
On specific measures, 52 percent favor banning semi-automatic handguns (it’s been 48 and 55 percent in previous polls) and 59 percent support banning high-capacity clips that carry more than 10 bullets (it was a similar 57 percent in early 2011, after the Tucson shootings). Banning the sale of handguns entirely (except for law enforcement) remains broadly unpopular, with 71 percent opposed, numerically a new high in results since 1999.
Intensity is on the side of supporters of stricter gun control in general – 44 percent of Americans are “strongly” in favor, vs. 32 percent strongly opposed, the widest intensity gap since spring 2007. And on banning high-capacity clips, strong supporters outnumber strong opponents by an 18-point margin, 47 percent vs. 29 percent.
At the same time, the highest intensity is in opposition to banning handguns overall – 56 percent “strongly” opposed, vs. 20 percent strong support.
In the wake of the shooting, at least two Senators — Dianne Feinstein and Frank Lautenberg — have said they would introduce gun control related measures in the next Congress and several Democratic Senators who have been generally very supportive of gun rights have indicated a willingness to consider some forms of control in the wake of the incident on Friday. In reality, though, there are several factors that make the odds of any serious gun control legislation actually passing seem fairly low. Leaving aside the issue of the House of Representatives, which seems unlikely to pass anything as draconian as the “assault weapons” ban that Feinstein and Lautenberg are proposing, there is still an open question of how well such a bill would do in the Senate. The are several Senators with generally pro-gun rights voting records up for re-election in 2014 in states that were won by Mitt Romney last month, and you can add to that list North Carolina’s Kay Hagen given the fact that the state Democratic Party in the Tarheel State seems to be in fairly bad shape. This, combined with the fact that any votes on any proposed legislation will likely be many months from now after the memory of Newtown has faded in the public mind, and I’d say it’s quite unlikely that we’ll see any significant legislation favored by the gun control lobby come out of Congress any time while Barack Obama is President.