Gallup: Opposition to handgun ban hits all-time high

posted at 12:01 pm on December 27, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

So how would Piers Morgan fare with his proposed constitutional amendment to repeal gun rights?  Amazingly, nearly three-quarters of Americans agree on handguns, anyway …  but not with Piers Morgan.  According to the latest Gallup survey taken within days of the Newtown massacre, a record number of Americans oppose a handgun ban, 74/24:

Despite Americans’ willingness to strengthen gun laws in the wake of Sandy Hook and other deadly mass shootings, Gallup finds public opposition to a broad ban on the possession of handguns at a record-high 74%. Conversely, the 24% in favor is the lowest recorded since Gallup first asked the question in 1959.

How about the “assault-rifle” ban?  Technically, an “assault rifle” is an automatic weapon, which is already banned.  Gallup asks respondents whether they are “for or against a law which would make it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles,” which is a badly-written question in several ways.  Even so, a majority opposes such a law, by just a slightly narrower gap than a year ago:

Two aspects of the Newtown shooting that have been a focal point of recent discussions about gun laws are the semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity ammunition magazines used by the shooter. Several state and federal lawmakers have already announced that they will seek to ban both from the commercial market.

Nevertheless, Americans’ views on the sale of assault rifles are unchanged. The slight majority, 51%, remain opposed to making it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles.

Notably, the 44% in favor of assault rifle bans in response to this trend question is nearly identical to the 42% Gallup found favoring assault and semi-automatic bans in a Dec. 18 poll. In that survey, participants responded to a question asking about possible approaches to preventing mass shootings at schools, similar to the shooting that occurred Dec. 14 in Connecticut.

That’s not to say that the mass murder and the resultant debate hasn’t moved the needle at all.  For the first time in four years, a majority wants restrictions on gun sales expanded, although at 58% it’s still on the lower end of the historical trend.  On that question, the general US population has only fallen short of a majority on that question from 2008-2011, and the numbers in the 1990s were all in the 60-percent range.  Also, as has been the case for a long time, there is near-unanimity on requiring background checks for all gun sales, including those at gun shows and presumably private sales (92%, 83% in 1999).

There is also significant support for banning the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines, which are defined in this poll as “high-capacity ammunition clips that can contain more than 10 bullets.”  If possession is banned, then that means millions of gun owners could find themselves in violation of the law, even for their handguns, unless the law grandfathers those magazines already in possession.  If so, though, it’s difficult to see how the law will be able to distinguish between those bought before or after the ban.

The overall takeaway seems to be that the Newtown shooting hasn’t actually changed many people’s positions on gun rights.  It’s just made them more vocal about those positions.

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