Fri, 19 Apr 2019

Poll: Majority of Americans Favor Stricter Gun Laws

Voice of America
24 Mar 2019, 22:05 GMT+10

WASHINGTON - 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 months mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand. It found that 67 percent of Americans support making U.S. 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.

Wide partisan divide

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 semi-automatic 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 theres 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.

Support across party lines

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, thats 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.

That poll also found that gun owners were far more likely than those who dont own guns to contact public officials about gun policy or donate to organizations that take a stance on the issue.

A divided Congress after last years midterm elections only serves to make any new national gun laws unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Support unchanged from 2018

Overall support for stricter gun laws is unchanged since an AP-NORC poll conducted one year ago, a month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. The post-Parkland poll marked an increase in support for stricter gun laws, from 61 percent in October 2017.

But the strength of that support appears to have ebbed. The percentage who say gun laws should be made much stricter, rather than just somewhat stricter, drifted down slightly after reaching a peak in the post-Parkland poll, from 45 percent then to 39 percent now.

The poll showed a wide share of Americans say safety in churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship has worsened over the past two decades. Sixty-one percent say religious houses have grown less safe over the last two decades. Slightly more said so after the New Zealand shooting than before, 64 percent to 57 percent.

Nearly 7 in 10 believe elementary and high schools have become less safe than they used to be. And 57 percent say the same about colleges and universities.

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