A new poll shows that Americans generally support some of the most often-proposed limits on gun ownership, including universal background checks and banning semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15.
Yet behind that support are deep divisions based on political party, geography, race and gender. The support for tighter gun laws also has clear limits. Americans broadly oppose a mandatory gun buyback program, do not want to ban handguns and do not believe gun manufacturers should be held liable when their products are later used in a crime.
A closer look at the findings of the Associated Press-GfK poll:
WIDE SUPPORT FOR CHANGES
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe the nation’s gun laws should be stricter. They are more likely to say Congress should set gun laws rather than state and local governments, which are passing a patchwork of different rules.
Two changes that have been recently blocked in Congress enjoy the broadest support, each with 73 percent in favor and 10 percent opposed. The first would require private sellers doing business at gun shows and over the internet to conduct background checks on buyers. The second would ban individuals who are on the government’s terrorism watch list from purchasing guns, even if they have not been convicted of crimes.
Proposals to reinstate a ban on semi-automatic weapons and to ban high-capacity magazines were favored by more than half of respondents and opposed by a quarter of them.
Most favor making adults criminally liable if their guns are accessed by children and are used to harm themselves or someone else. Americans are also more likely to favor than oppose allowing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence.
The support for stricter gun laws appears to be driven, at least in part, by personal safety worries. Roughly 6 in 10 Americans are at least moderately concerned that they or members of their families might be victims of gun violence.
DIVIDED BY POLITICS
Despite some consensus, Americans’ views on gun laws remain divided in many ways. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats support stricter gun laws, while 4 in 10 Republicans do.
Americans are split over whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do a better job of handling gun laws as president. They also are equally divided in their opinions of the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby.
Women are more likely than men to support stricter gun laws. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to support stricter laws than whites.
About 7 in 10 people living in urban and suburban areas support stricter laws, but that number falls to only about half of those living in rural areas.
OPPOSITION TO MORE BURDENSOME MEASURES
Americans broadly oppose some of the tougher gun control measures that have been proposed or that have worked to reduce violence in other countries.
By 59 percent to 18 percent, most oppose banning the sale of handguns.
A large majority also opposes a mandatory gun buyback program similar to one that is widely credited with reducing gun violence in Australia. Americans also broadly oppose efforts to make gun makers and sellers liable if a gun they produce or sell is used in a crime.
By a wide margin, 62 percent to 35 percent, respondents said they believe owning a gun does more to protect someone from becoming a victim than putting that person’s safety at risk. This was especially true for those who identified as Republicans, whites, men and rural residents.
Blacks and Hispanics were about evenly divided on the question, while a slim majority of Democrats say a weapon does more to put a person’s safety at risk.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,009 adults was conducted online July 7 to July 11, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for the KnowledgePanel who did not have access to the Internet were provided access for free.
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