After Aurora: Little Change In Opinions About Gun Control Measures

July 25, 2012, 12:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 7/21/2012) Americans have been divided politically when it comes to gun control laws for a long time, and the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted in the days following the shootings at the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, finds that little has changed after what has been called one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history.

43% of Americans now say gun control laws should be made more strict, while half say they need not be changed or should be made even less strict. These results are not much changed from what they were following the shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona early in 2011.

Large majorities of the public favor several gun measures, including: preventing those with a history of mental illness from owning a gun (81%), instituting a 5-day waiting period before someone can purchase a handgun (70%), and creating a national gun registry (61%). A majority of Republicans favor only the first two of these proposals.

There is an enormous party divide on one proposal: a ban on semi-automatic weapons, supported by half the public overall, but with Republicans and Democrats on different sides. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which included many semiautomatic weapons, expired in 2004, and the Aurora shooter used a semi-automatic rifle that would have been outlawed by the ban in his attack on the theater audience. 64% of Democrats support the ban, but only 34% of Republicans do.

One change Americans in both parties don’t want to make is to outlaw handguns. Just 18% would do that.

The Aurora shootings took place in a movie theater, during the premiere of a movie with a PG-13 rating, though much violence. Americans don’t necessarily blame violent movies and other entertainment for mass shootings — not even in part. 42% say they are partly to blame, 48% say they are not. And there is not much difference between Republicans and Democrats on this question.