Most Republicans and Democrats favor raising the age for owning a semi-automatic weapon

Linley SandersData Journalist
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
June 10, 2022, 1:45 PM GMT+0

On Wednesday, Democrats in the House passed gun-control legislation — along with the votes of five Republicans — that would raise the age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles, ban high-capacity magazines, and expand background checks. The latest Economist/YouGov poll shows bipartisan support for many of those proposals while finding that Republicans nationally do not support all of Democrats’ gun-control efforts.

Democrats’ and Republicans’ shared views on gun restrictions do suggest some common ground for possible action. Significant shares of each party favor preventing people with a history of mental illness from owning guns, requiring criminal and mental background checks for all people buying guns, and funding the study of mental health and gun violence. About two-thirds of Republicans (64%) and 85% of Democrats favor raising the age limit for owning a semi-automatic weapon to 21 from 18.

Republicans do not agree on a full ban on semi-automatic weapons, a 1994 initiative that President Biden advocated for renewing in his June 2 televised address on recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. There is also less support for red flag laws that would allow courts to remove guns temporarily from someone who might pose a danger to themselves or to others. But Republicans do support preventing people with a history of mental illness from owning guns in the first place.

Republicans and Democrats part ways when it comes to giving teachers and administrators the opinion of being armed at schools: Republicans are more likely to favor these measures. Members of the two parties also divide on whether stricter gun laws could have prevented recent mass shootings: 62% of Democrats say they would; 19% of Republicans agree.

Two-thirds of gun owners say Democrats want to take most guns away from Americans

Even as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed gun-control legislation, it already is seen as “doomed in the Senate,” where the Democrats' edge is as narrow as Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris's tiebreaking vote. They would need at least 60 votes to end a Republican filibuster and move the package of legislation forward. Republicans in Congress have framed the bill as an effort to “destroy the Second Amendment.”

New polling shows that 45% of Americans say Democrats want to take most guns away from Americans. Republicans (77%) are more likely than Democrats (21%) to say this. Two-thirds of gun owners (67%) believe Democrats want to take their guns. Just 11% of gun owners say Republicans want to.

Guns are a more important issue for Democrats now than two weeks ago

Each week, the Economist/YouGov poll asks Americans to choose their “most important issue” out of a list of 14 options that includes health care, crime, abortion, and jobs and the economy. In the last two weeks, the issue of “guns” has jumped to most important for 13% of Democrats, from 3%. Among Americans overall and Republicans, the share who list guns as their most important issue has increased slightly.

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on June 4 - 7, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll

Image: Getty