Support rises for strict gun laws

March 01, 2018, 6:00 PM GMT+0

61% of Americans now favor stricter gun laws

A majority of the public consistently has supported many gun control proposals: just over half in last week’s Economist/YouGov Polls say they want stricter gun laws in general. But support has not grown beyond that - until now. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, 61% say there should be stricter gun laws, up eight points in the last week.

The movement towards supporting stricter gun laws has taken place across the political spectrum. Last week, immediately after the schools shootings in Parkland, Florida, Republicans were more likely to want no change in gun laws than they were to favor stricter controls. Now more Republicans support stricter laws than want no change. One in ten Republicans support loosening existing gun regulations.

Those who own guns have not changed their views. Four in ten of those who own guns say now (as they did last week) that they favor stricter gun laws. 46% of gun owner want no change, and one in ten favor loosening regulations.

President Trump has said he favors a variety of new regulations and laws to limit gun access, and Republicans - and the public overall -- generally agree with him. There is support for both limits on gun ownership and enhanced security. The public would eliminate so-called "bump stocks," which can turn semi-automatic weapons into the equivalent of machine guns, raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles, and improve background checks. Republicans and the public overall are divided on arming teachers, though most support armed guards at schools.

Public support for the extension of background checks for gun purchases also includes prohibiting gun purchases for those on the no-fly list, which is favored by 72% overall and 65% of Republicans.

The relationship between mental health and guns is complicated for many. There is strong support for requiring mental health background checks before permitting gun purchases (72% think that better mental health screening would help prevent gun violence), and Americans don't believe the country's mental health needs are being met. Many Americans go so far as to say those who buy a gun should be required to undergo a mental examination and 43% think this should be an ongoing process for gun owners.

Three in four think better background checks and preventing those with mental illness from buying guns would be effective in limiting the number and severity of mass shootings. Only 46% think arming teachers would be effective.

There is significant support for the government funding a study of the relationship between mental illness and gun violence, more so than there has been for studies of gun research overall (since 1996, the Dickey Amendment has put limits on what the Centers for Disease Control can do about studying gun violence). In this week's poll, half the public favors such research, though Republicans oppose it.

There are public limits to accepting changes in gun laws. Just one in five would repeal the Second Amendment; but 46% would be willing to modify it to make it easier to regulate guns. 39%, however, oppose modifying the Constitution to do that.

Though the President and the public are in agreement on many gun control proposals, Americans don't give the President especially high marks on his response to the Florida shootings. 36% approve; 48% do not. The public gives the same evaluation when asked how the President is handling gun control in general.

Throughout the debates on gun control, there have been opinion differences between men and women - with women more supportive than men of most gun control legislation. This week, the gender gap on favoring stricter gun laws is 15 points, with most of the gender difference occurring among Republicans and independents. This week, a majority of GOP women favor stricter gun laws, up ten points in the last week.

Read the latest topline and tables results here

Image: Getty