Last week, we looked at a Gallup poll that found a majority of adults now oppose a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and discussed how even Everytown for Gun Safety is now running campaign ads focused on anything but gun control to help push their agenda.
Gallup also released two other interesting data points from their latest survey. The first finding is that 61% of Americans “favor stricter laws on the sale of firearms.” This is a decrease from a recent high after the Parkland shooting, but we have not yet returned to the lows of the late 2000s and early 2010s[MC1] . There are marginal upticks in the percentage of Americans who feel that gun laws should be less strict or kept as they are now.
Support for stricter gun laws is strongest among Democrats (87% in favor), and three in five Independents (61%) favor stricter gun laws. A majority of Republicans believe gun laws should be kept as they are (55%).
We just don’t know which gun laws Americans believe should be made more strict. Gallup tested an assault weapons ban, as we discussed last week, and found a majority of Americans oppose a ban on assault weapons. Gallup’s other recent release found that an even stronger majority of Americans oppose a law “that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons.” You may recall that 57% of American adults are against a ban on semi-automatic rifles, even when they are misleadingly called “assault weapons.” Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans oppose a handgun ban. Even most Democrats (55%) oppose a handgun ban – and this is the group among whom support for stricter gun sales laws is nearly universal.
There is a concerning trend for support of a handgun ban. Support increased five points between 2016 and 2017 and has held since steady at 28%. While this is a minority of the American public, writing them off would be foolish. These are the people who support radical anti-gun politicians and organizations, who conspire to advance piecemeal gun control under the guise of “doing something.”
We don’t have the data necessary to see the percentage of Americans who both support stricter gun sales laws and oppose a ban on semi-automatic rifles or handguns, but the data that is publicly available is strong – and clear. Americans clearly oppose a ban on the manufacture, sale, or possession of semi-automatic rifles and oppose a ban on handguns[MC2] .
What this survey does not measure is the respondents’ familiarity with gun laws, and misleading claims about gun laws are routinely spread. The former President claimed that it’s easier to buy a gun than it is to buy a computer, a book, or a vegetable. Claims that it is harder to buy allergy medication than it is to buy a gun circulated on social media several weeks ago, propagated by an anti-gun public relations professional and echoed by the father of a Parkland, Florida, shooting victim. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and such claims may stick.
So here we are. A majority want stricter laws concerning gun sales and majorities oppose prohibitions on the sale or possession of semi-automatic rifles or handguns. There is some room for interpretation of the question language, and the impact of high-profile shootings in the data is apparent even to anti-gun activists. Perhaps some of that majority simply want “to be better” in terms of crime. Some may actually think that it’s easier for a teenager to get a Glock than a book.