In Gun Control Debate, Several Options Draw Majority Support

Contact: Russ Oates, Communications Manager


Washington , D.C. - 01/14/2013 - While the issue of gun control remains divisive, there are clear areas of agreement when it comes to a number of gun policy proposals. Fully 85% of Americans favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, with comparable support from Republicans, Democrats and independents. Similarly, 80% support laws to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing guns, with broad support across party lines, according to a new national survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

But this bipartisan consensus breaks down when it comes to other proposals. Two-thirds of Americans (67%) favor creating a federal database to track gun sales, but there is a wide partisan divide between Democrats (84%) and Republicans (49%). A smaller majority of the public (55%) favors a ban on assault-style weapons; Democrats (69%) also are far more likely than Republicans (44%) to support this. Similar partisan divides exist when it comes to banning high-capacity ammunition clips or the sale of ammunition online.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, also tested two specific school-safety proposals, with widely different results. By a two-to-one margin (64%-32%), most favor putting armed security guards and police in more schools. But when it comes to more teachers and school officials having guns, most are opposed (40% favor vs. 57% oppose). The latter option is particularly divisive across party lines: 56% of Republicans would like to see more teachers and school officials armed, compared with just 23% of Democrats.

The survey finds that supporters of gun rights are more politically active than are supporters of gun control. Nearly a quarter (23%) of those who say gun rights should be the priority have contributed money to an organization that takes a position on gun policy, compared with just 5% of those who prioritize gun control. People who favor gun rights are also about twice as likely as gun control supporters to have contacted a public official about gun policy (15% vs. 8%).

Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the White House effort to formulate new proposals to reduce gun violence, gets mixed ratings from the public: 42% have a favorable impression of him, 42% unfavorable. This is virtually unchanged since late October on the eve of the election (44% favorable, 42% unfavorable).

For the full analysis, go to http://www.people-press.org/2013/01/14/in-gun-control-debate-several-options-draw-majority-support/. This analysis is for immediate release and is available at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press website at http://www.people-press.org/.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Michael Dimock, director, or Carroll Doherty, associate director, please contact Russ Oates at 202.419.4372 or roates@pewresearch.org.

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