Gun control remains divisive, but bump stocks are unpopular

October 13, 2017, 2:00 PM GMT+0

Even 43% of gun owners want bump stocks banned completely

Positions on gun control are strongly held, with few changes from one year to the next. Those opinions don’t change much in response to events. This weekend, in the wake of the mass killings in Las Vegas, the respondents in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll took similar positions to those they have taken for years: favoring some gun control measures, but not others.

Gun ownership and party identification often overlap. A third of Republicans personally own a gun; just 14% of Democrats do. More than two-thirds of Democrats say no one in their household owns a gun; less than half of Republicans say that. [Much of this difference is based on where people live: those in rural areas are more likely to own guns, and also more likely than those in cities to call themselves Republican.

There are areas of broad agreement. The vast majority want to ban “bump stocks,” a post-purchase addition that can make semi-automatic weapons behave as if they were fully automatic. Two of these devices were found in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room.

In general, gun owners aren’t looking for looser gun laws. But they do not want them made more strict. Half the country supports stricter gun laws in principle, but just 31% of gun owners do. Two-thirds who favor stricter gun laws believe they could have prevented the Las Vegas shootings; but half the public overall disagrees.

Gun owners and the public agree on several other measures: keeping guns from those with a history of mental illness, requiring background checks for those buying guns at gun shows and through private sales, setting up a five-day waiting period for those who want to purchase handguns, and providing $50 million to hire officers and counselors and provide emergency planning for schools. And there is little support for Congressional legislation to allow gun silencers – a proposal that was withdrawn after Las Vegas.

There is little support from the public in general for some other proposals: only one in four overall would ban handguns (except those used for law enforcement) entirely, and only 39% favor outlawing concealed carry.

There are differences, sometimes dramatic ones, between gun owners and the public overall when it comes to banning semi-automatic weapons, setting up a national registry of gun owners, limiting the number of guns someone can own, banning semi-automatic clips with more than ten rounds, requiring a police permit to carry a handgun, and funding Centers for Disease Control research on preventing gun violence.

Opinion of the National Rifle Association is decidedly mixed – as it has been for a while. 40% are favorable towards the NRA, 36% are not. Two in three gun owners have a favorable opinion of the NRA, compared with just 28% of those who do not have a gun in their home.

Read more from this week's Economist/YouGov poll here

photo credit: Getty Images