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.
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.