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Pew poll finds agreement on some gun control proposals

January 14, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • Ian and Nicole Hockley, parents of Sandy Hook school shooting victim Dylan, listen at a news conference at Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, Conn., on the one-month anniversary of the massacre.
Ian and Nicole Hockley, parents of Sandy Hook school shooting victim Dylan,… (Jessica Hill / Associated…)

A month after an elementary school massacre pushed gun control back onto the public agenda, some of the key proposals being discussed remain a sore point between Democrats and Republicans, though two ideas are backed by large, bipartisan majorities, according to a poll released Monday.

About 85% of surveyed Americans favor background checks for private gun sales and transactions at gun shows, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Four out of five Americans favor laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying weapons. Both findings had broad support across party lines.

But that bipartisan approach broke down when it came to the politically more controversial proposals such as a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as to creating a federal database to track gun sales.

According to the poll, 67% of those surveyed favor the database but Democrats' support for the plan was at 84% while Republicans were at  49%. Bare majorities of about 55% back the assault ban, with Democrats at 69% and Republicans at 44%.

A month ago, Adam Lanza invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 children and six adults with an assault rifle. He had earlier shot his mother to death in the house they shared and he ended his attack by killing himself.

The shootings reopened the debate, often fiercely partisan, over how to deal with gun violence. President Obama appointed a task force, headed by Vice President Joe Biden, to study the issue.

At a news conference Monday, Obama said he had received the group’s recommendations and would review them with Biden before presenting his proposals this week, some of which will probably need congressional action. The president gave some indication of his thinking, however.

“But what you can count is, is that the things that I’ve said in the past -- the belief that we have to have stronger background checks, that we can do a much better job in terms of keeping these magazine clips with high capacity out of the hands of folks who shouldn’t have them, an assault weapons ban that is meaningful -- that those are things I continue to believe make sense,” Obama told reporters.

“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” the president said. “But what’s uppermost in my mind is making sure that I’m honest with the American people and with members of Congress about what I think will work, what I think is something that will make a difference. And to repeat what I’ve said earlier -- if there is a step we can take that will save even one child from what happened in Newtown, we should take that step.”

Gun rights advocates have argued that more gun control would have done little to prevent the Newtown shootings. Led by the National Rifle Assn., they have said the issue is really about school safety, and the organization has called for more armed guards at schools.

The Pew poll found that those surveyed favored, by 64% to 32%, putting armed security guards and police in more schools. But most opposed, by 57% to 40%, giving guns to teachers or other school officials.  Again, politics mattered, with 56% of Republicans saying they would favor arming teachers versus 23% of Democrats.

The poll of 1,502 adults was taken Jan. 9-13. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.


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