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Poll: Americans Remain Split on Gun Control

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.


In the aftermath of mass shootings in Tucson, Arizona this month, Americans remain split on the issue of gun control, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

The survey finds that Americans have moved slightly in favor of stricter laws in light of the incident, in which six were killed and fourteen wounded when gunman Jared Loughner allegedly opened fire at a political event outside of an Arizona supermarket.

The poll finds that 46 percent of Americans think gun laws should be made stricter, while 38 percent want them to stay the same. Thirteen percent said they thought gun control laws should be made less strict.

In a similar poll conducted in April 2010, 40 percent of Americans thought gun laws should be made tougher, while 42 percent wanted them to stay the same. Sixteen percent wanted them to be made less strict.

Public support for a nationwide ban on assault weapons has risen. Sixty-three percent of voters said they would support such a ban, up from 54 percent in 2009.

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Even those who live in gun-owning households favor a ban on assault weapons, the poll finds, although by a smaller margin than with the rest of the population: 54 percent of those Americans favor a ban on assault weapons, and 44 percent oppose such a ban.

The survey also indicates that nearly two in three Americans favor a ban on high capacity clips that can hold dozens of rounds like the ones used in the Arizona shootings. Sixty-three percent favor a ban on such clips (including 58 percent of gun-owning households), while 34 percent oppose it.

And while there are partisan differences on many of these questions, with Democrats more supportive of tougher gun laws than Republicans, half of Republicans also favor a ban on assault weapons and on high capacity magazines.

Americans remain largely opposed to an outright ban on handguns, however: Sixty-five percent of Americans oppose such a ban, while only 32 percent support one. Public opinion on that matter has stayed relatively consistent since 2000.

As would be expected, Americans who live in households with a gun are less supportive of a ban on the sale of all handguns: Just 18 percent of them say they favor a ban, while 81 percent say they are opposed.

Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York officially unveiled a bill on Tuesday that would ban the sale of high-capacity magazines, and mandate that clips sold in the United States allowed for no more than ten rounds. (The clip allegedly used by Loughner, which became legal when Congress allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004, held up to 33 rounds.)

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,036 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone January 15 - 19, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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