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Poll: Inconclusive support for gun control

Ask Americans whether they support the idea of stricter laws governing the sale of firearms, and they'll offer a fairly robust "yes," according to the results of a new Gallup poll.

But ask them whether those stricter laws should include a ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons, like the one used in last week's massacre of 27 people in Newtown, Conn., and you'll get a far more ambivalent response.

That is the paradox confronting advocates for tougher gun control laws - proposals restricting the sale and use of firearms tend to be more popular in theory than in execution.

A Gallup survey conducted just days after Newtown found that 58 percent of American adults support stricter laws covering the sale of firearms, up from 43 percent in 2011. Thirty-four percent believe the laws should be kept as they are, and only six percent believe they should be made less strict. By this measure, at least, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has strengthened support for gun control.

But advocates for stricter gun laws continue to face opposition on other fronts, according to a few other findings from Gallup's poll. Only 44 percent of respondents voiced support for a ban on semi-automatic weapons, one commonly-floated solution in the aftermath of Newtown. Fifty-one percent were opposed to such a ban, and both numbers have scarcely changed in the last few years.

And a whopping 74 percent of respondents - a record high - opposed a ban on the possession of handguns, compared to only 24 percent who supported such a ban. A handgun ban has not entered the post-Newtown dialogue on gun control, and given numbers like these, that does not seem likely to change any time soon.

Gallup's poll surveyed 1,038 adults between December 19 and 22 and had a margin of error of plus or minus four percent.

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