Support For Gun Control Slips In New Poll

Support for broad gun control measures appears to be slipping:

WASHINGTON — Four months after the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a USA TODAY Poll finds support for a new gun-control law ebbing as prospects for passage on Capitol Hill seem to fade.

Americans are more narrowly divided on the issue than in recent months, and backing for a bill has slipped below 50%, the poll finds. By 49%-45%, those surveyed favor Congress passing a new gun-control law. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in early April, 55% had backed a stricter gun law, which was down from 61% in February.

The survey of 1,002 adults was taken Thursday through Sunday by Princeton Survey Research. The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Those who support a bill want advocates in Congress to hang tough and not compromise — an attitude that also could complicate passing legislation. Sixty-one percent say members of Congress “should only agree to a stronger version of the bill, even if it might not pass.” Just 30% say they should “accept a weaker law” they know can win approval.

“So much of the support for gun control is emotional, following the Newtown tragedy,” says Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. The December shooting at the Connecticut school left 20 children and six adults dead. “The longer you get away from there, people start thinking of other issues. They start thinking about terrorism or jobs or immigration, and not surprisingly, then some of the momentum behind gun control starts to fade.”

The Boston Marathon bombings last Monday also may have had an effect, he speculates. “It wouldn’t be shocking if people sitting in their homes in Massachusetts cities and towns thought to themselves, ‘Boy, I wish I had something to protect myself with if a terrorist came through the door now.'”

As I argued last week, here and here, I think Rothenberg is largely correct here.  Gun control has long been a low intensity issue among voters, especially at the national level, and there’s little sign of that changing soon.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tony W says:

    So much of the support for gun control is emotional, following the Newtown tragedy

    As is the opposing viewpoint.

    It is at least a partial explanation, however, as to why we cannot get Congress to consider legislation simply on its merits…

  2. Boyd says:

    @Tony W: If you truly believe that, Tony, you should expand your reading. 2nd Amendment thought leaders include David Hardy, David Kopel, Nicholas Johnson, Clayton Cramer, and Glenn Reynolds. Gun rights folks, by-and-large, aren’t frothing mouth breathers. While you may disagree with their views, these are calm, studious, thoughtful, logical people who put a lot of honest effort into their rational approach to gun rights.

    You may think they’re wrong, but it defies reality to call them emotional.

  3. Caj says:

    Of course it maybe slipping when we have some gutless Senators who were scared stiff of the NRA and their own shadows to do what the majority of the country wanted in the first place. They all might be singing a very different tune had it been one of their children or family members riddled with bullets that awful day. Shame on them and all others out there who seem to have forgotten that 20 children & 6 brave teachers lost their lives that awful day. That was also a terrorist act as were all the other mass shootings, but some in the NRA and others want to allow yet more guns on the streets! Go crazy over a bombing of 3 which was awful no doubt about it but 26 just because guns were used seems to be no problem at all for those gutless articles!

  4. Tony W says:

    @Boyd: There are many reasonable thought leaders on the other side of the equation as well – not at all my point. The fringes have fearful people claiming that the NRA wants to arm every dog, cat and parakeet in the USA, and the slippery-slope nuts who think Obama is coming for your guns. Neither position is correct and both are driven by emotion.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    People are largely resigned to the fact that the cult of gun ownership in this country is so strong that there is not much that we can do to limit the availability weapons to just about anybody who wants all manner of guns. About you can do is pay your dues to the NRA and hope for the best. We’re willing to put up with the periodic mass shootings as the price we pay for a virtually unlimited supply of guns to the people.

  6. Stonetools says:


    Glenn Reynolds is a calm, studious, thoughtful advocate?

  7. Boyd says:

    @Stonetools: I’m willing to be educated, just point me to Professor Reynolds’ emotion-driven position on the 2nd Amendment. In return, I’ll be happy to point you to a seemingly endless stream of calm, studious, thoughtful papers he’s written on that subject and others.