Half of Americans support new gun control laws, polls show

Assault weapons for sale
CBS News

Half of Americans support new gun control measures in the wake of last month's mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, two new polls show.

Fifty-two percent - of those polled by The Washington Post/ABC News said the tragedy that left 26 dead, including 20 children, has made them more amenable to gun control. Though some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said reinstating a nationwide ban on assault weapons would not pass muster in Congress, 58 percent of respondents said they would support doing so, and 65 percent said they would back a law banning high-capacity ammunition clips containing more than 10 bullets.

The most overwhelming number, though, was the 88 percent who said they favor closing the loophole that allows people to purchase guns at gun shows without first passing background checks. A comparable 85 percent answered the same way in another poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Another point of consensus was a law to prevent mentally ill people from being able to purchase guns, which 80 percent told Pew they would support.

But while some policies attracted broad support across party lines, others highlighted the ideological faceoff that's likely to emerge in the coming months after Vice President Joe Biden tenders his task force's recommendations on how to handle the nation's escalating gun violence.

A 25-point partisan gap is apparent, for example, on the assault weapons ban: Only 44 percent of Republicans, compared to 69 percent of Democrats, told Pew they would back the measure. Similar 19- and 20-point gaps, respectively, are seen when asked whether the government should ban semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

The majority of Republicans - 56 percent - who responded to Pew said they get behind the idea that arming teachers and officials in schools will help decrease gun violence, a notion only 23 percent of Democrats support. Eighty-four percent of Democrats, meanwhile, compared to 49 percent of Republicans, said they favor the creation of a federal database to track gun sales.

Regardless of which path lawmakers pursue, though, most of those sampled in the Washington Post/ABC News poll said enacting stricter gun laws should not be the highest priority for Congress and the White House in the coming months: The economy, 69 percent agreed, should take top billing.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll interviewed 1,001 Americans between Jan. 10 and 13, and has a +/- 3.5 percent margin of error. The Pew poll surveyed 1,502 Americans between Jan. 9 and 13, and has a +/- 2.9 percent margin of error.

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