Poll: Majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws
A majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws, and most believe places of worship and schools have become less safe over the last two decades, according to a new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The survey was conducted both before and after this month’s mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand. It found that 67 percent of Americans support making US gun laws stricter, while 22 percent say they should be left as they are and 10 percent think they should be made less strict.
The New Zealand shooting on March 15 did not appear to have an impact on Americans’ support for new gun laws; support for tighter gun laws was the same in interviews conducted before and after the shooting.
While a majority of Americans have consistently said they support stronger gun laws, proposals have stalled repeatedly in Congress in recent years, a marked contrast to New Zealand and some other countries, such as Australia, that have acted swiftly after a mass shooting. Less than a week after the mosque shootings, New Zealand moved to ban “military-style” semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines; similarly, after a mass shooting in 1996, Australia enacted sweeping gun bans within two weeks.
The new poll suggests many Americans would support similar measures, but there’s a wide gulf between Democrats and Republicans on banning specific types of guns. Overall, 6 in 10 Americans support a ban on AR-15 rifles and similar semiautomatic weapons. Roughly 8 in 10 Democrats, but just about 4 in 10 Republicans, support that policy.
Republicans are also far less likely than Democrats to think that making it harder to buy a gun would prevent mass shootings, 36 percent to 81 percent. Overall, 58 percent of Americans think it would.
Still, some gun restrictions get wide support across party lines. Wide shares of both Democrats and Republicans support a universal background check requirement, along with allowing courts to prevent some people from buying guns if they are considered dangerous to themselves or others, even if they have not committed crimes.
In contrast to New Zealand, the United States has enacted few national restrictions in recent years. In part, that’s a reflection of gun rights being enshrined in the U.S. Constitution; in a poll by the Pew Research Center in spring of 2017, 74 percent of gun owners said the right to own guns is essential to their own sense of freedom.