Poll: Americans oppose assault weapons ban

Despite the shooting deaths of 26 elementary school students and teachers in Connecticut and the recent murder of two firefighters responding to a call in New York, Americans continue to oppose a ban on military-like assault weapons by a 7-point margin.

Nearly 51% of respondents to a USAToday/Gallup poll opposed enacting a ban on assault weapons, while 44% said such a ban would be a good idea (margin of error: +/- 4%). These numbers are almost unchanged from a similar poll in October 2011, which found that 43% supported a ban and 51% opposed it.

It’s worth noting, however, that 58% of Americans do want stricter gun control laws in general. That’s up from 43% in October of last year.

Gun poll

Source: USAToday.com

The desire for tighter regulations has almost certainly grown out of a wave of high-profile mass shootings in the last 13 months, including the wounding of Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords, the attack on a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin, and the Aurora theater shootings in Colorado.

It comes as no surprise that Americans are divided on solutions to this disturbing wave of violence. Gun control has always been a divisive issue between liberals (many of whom inhabit large cities with high gun crime rates) and conservatives (many of whom live in rural communities and view firearms as a form of protection and a way of life). While the shift on regulating firearms in general may cheer gun-control activists, pro-gun advocates still see support in the number of people who oppose a ban on assault weapons.

President Obama recently commissioned a panel led by Vice President Joe Biden to examine the causes of gun violence in America and propose actionable solutions. That commission is due to report to the nation in January of next year.

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Posted in President Obama, Social Policy
15 comments on “Poll: Americans oppose assault weapons ban
  1. Jim Hull says:

    Half the country wants fewer guns; the other half wants more guns. Someday people might end up shooting at each other to prevent shooting at each other.

  2. George Williams says:

    As the government becomes larger and more intrusive and increasingly more restrictive on individual liberties, its becoming clear that the founders included the second amendment in our constitution to allow the people means to remove by force, a tyrannical government who refuses to honor our rights. Can’t effect that change with single shot pop guns while the government uses machine guns and heavy weapons. Assault weapons are required therfor to preserve constitutional democracy.

    • Assault rifles aren’t even enough to fight the government. The government has predator drones, chemical and nuclear weapons, and tanks. Your interpretation would mean that the founders wanted us to have those things too so that we at least had a fighting chance, but I think you see why it would be problematic to implement that.

      The actual goal of the 2nd amendment, according to a letter by James Madison, is to keep the balance of power between the states and the federal government. The state militias (made up of average people) had to be well armed so the federal government didn’t try to gobble them up to increase its power. What constitutes a militia today is less clear – some claim it’s the national guard unit in each state.

      • George Williams says:

        The world’s most powerful military was held at bay for years using nothing but assault weapons, small arms and improvised explosive devices. The Russian military machine was held out by Chechan rebels with no heavy weaponry for quite some time.

        James Madison was not responsible for the second amendment; George Mason was, (co author), and said: “I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few public officials”, and; “…to disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

        -The state national guard units are in fact US Armed forces; the Army. They are subject to control by the joint cheifs and the President; they cannot therefore be called “militia”.

        Standing armies, even if well equipt are almost always trumped by armed civillians. Even despots like Hitler acknowledged that fact:

        “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.” -Adolph Hitler

        To date 46,000 people have been killed in Syria. One of the Middle East’s most powerful military machines is being defeated at this very minute by rebels who did not possess tanks, planes, drones, or chemical weapons, merely small arms and assault rifles, indicating that history has AGAIN proven your premise wrong.

      • Those are some pretty powerful counter-arguments (especially the quote by Mason). You’re also right that the national guard is under the control of the Joint Chiefs, but what is the extent of their control? I’m Bayesian in my thinking and like to think I have an open mind on the issue of interpretation.

      • Jim Hull says:

        DYNAMO: Let’s say the Pentagon has little control over state Guards. Does a freely functioning state militia fulfill the purpose of the Second Amendment? Or do the citizens need to be armed privately in any event, as a kind of backstop or firewall?

      • The original intention was to balance state and federal power. Because of that I’d answer yes to your first question, adding that a civilian population with access to firearms is acceptable but that their claim to firearms only extends to self defense – not defense against “tyranny” (let’s not forget that mob rule is its own kind of tyranny).

        Good question.

      • Jim Hull says:

        DYNAMO: ” . . . a civilian population would find it more costly to fight the American (not Syrian or Libyan – American) military . . . ” — It’s more complex than that. Let’s say polarization gets out of hand, and several states try to secede. The president sends in troops and calls up the state National Guards. Which side will the Guards take? And what if federal troops must fire on their own friends and families? (Robert E. Lee famously fought this battle with himself in 1861 before declaring for Virginia and against the Union.)

        Then there’s Sun Tzu, who advised: if you have superior forces, attack; equal forces, parlay; fewer forces, _harass_. An armed citizenry can harass. Does the Second Amendment abet those citizens? If so, is that wise or not? Regardless of whether the states or the Feds are the “good guys” during such a crisis — and regardless of which side the state Guards take — should the citizens have the right to take up arms in the battle? The Amendment centers on this question and not “self defense”, as is commonly believed.

      • In a time of war citizens have the right to arm themselves against invasion, acting alongside their side’s “normal” military units. Citizens have the right to own weapons for self defense because there’s nothing that I can find in the constitution that prohibits people from taking that action to defend themselves and there’s some evidence that’s also under the 2nd amendment.

        Obviously in a time of civil war there would be a lot of messy questions that would be almost impossible to answer satisfyingly today.

    • I have heard this argument many times whenever gun rights come up, I have to say I agree with the author in that against the US military, a few anarchists with semi automatics don’t stand much of a chance. Not to mention SWAT teams, national guard, FBI, CIA, local and state police with massive monetary and strategic advantages. And honestly if America got to that point ( God help us) don’t you think the government would ban those weapons to preserve itself? I think this is a very far fetched and ill conceived argument and I don’t accept it as a reason for keeping these mass killing machines around.

      • Thanks for the feedback. While in the past we did beat the British, the gap has grown so much in the last 200 years that a civilian population would find it more costly to fight the American (not Syrian or Libyan – American) military than to prevent some kind of power grab by electoral vigilance. It does my heart good to see that there are a few other people out their on the internets who understand this reality.

      • George Williams says:

        The Oath of enlistment for US Armed forces personnel includes “defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” It should be noted that this is included in the oath before obeying orders from the President and the officers appointed over. This oath does not end with obligated military service. These are’nt “just a few anarchists with semi automatics”, there are literally Millions of armed forces veterans who possess assault rifles, are trained and proficient in their use, and knowing full well what the military would employ against them in armed action.

        It’s disheartening to know that Americans are becoming so self-absorbed in materialism and self gratification that they would not be willing to commit to personal sacrifice to gain freedom and liberty. The constitution is what keeps us from tyranny and oppression. Regardless of the sacrifice; millions of Americans are still willing to defend liberty,

        As in Syria, civillians with small arms can turn the tide of injustice. They can’t do it without weapons, and controlling weapons to only allow single shot pop guns is the very first step in tyranny. 51% is a majority, and as we know from the presidential election; even a few percentage points is now being touted as a “Mandate”. 51-47% is equally such a Mandate from the American people.

  3. […] try to put laws in place to stop the violence, but they’re met by a committed gun lobby and a skeptical population. Who will give, and what will get done? We can expect some indicators of the Obama […]

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