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Poll: Majority of Americans back stricter gun laws

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, Fred Backus and Leigh Ann Caldwell

As the president outlined sweeping new proposals aimed to reduce gun violence, a new CBS News/New York Times poll found that Americans back the central components of the president's proposals, including background checks, a national gun sale database, limits on high capacity magazines and a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

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Asked if they generally back stricter gun laws, more than half of respondents - 54 percent - support stricter gun laws; 53 percent say it would deter gun violence. That is a jump from April - before the Newtown and Aurora shootings - when only 39 percent backed stricter gun laws but about the same as ten years ago.

Not all respondents, however, back stricter gun laws. The idea is more popular among Democrats and a slight majority of independents while only 31 percent of Republicans back stricter limits on guns. The ideological split is similar to the split among gun ownership. While 74 percent of people who don't keep guns in the house back stricter gun laws, 36 percent of gun owning households do and 26 percent of gun owners.

When asked about specific proposals, however, people were more inclined to back stricter gun laws. For instance, nine out of 10 respondents support background checks on all potential gun buyers, and nearly four-fifths of respondents are in favor of a national database to track gun sales. As for limiting access, 63 percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines and 53 percent back a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

The president proposed all of those ideas during a news conference Wednesday after receiving recommendations from a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden.

Gun owners, however, had a somewhat different take. While 70 percent back a national database, 64 percent oppose a ban on semi-automatic weapons and 51 percent oppose a ban of high-capacity magazines.

The least popular idea asked in the poll would drastically change the nature of gun ownership in many places around the country and was not proposed by the president. A national ban on carrying concealed firearms was opposed by two-thirds.

The president did propose expanded access to mental health records, which 82 percent of respondents say would at least somewhat help prevent gun violence. As for other preventative measures, 74 percent say that armed security guards would also help prevent mass shootings in public places, and 75 percent say gun violence in movies and video games are a contributing factor.

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The major players around gun policy receive mixed ratings. Respondents said they trusted the president more than Republicans in Congress to deal with the issue by 47 to 39 percent. Vice President Joe Biden received a similar rating to the president, with 49 percent supporting his role, which has been a central to the gun debate. The National Rifle Association, the gun lobby opposed to gun restrictions and the president's proposals, have similar approval ratings to Republicans in Congress. Thirty-eight percent have a favorable view of the organization, 29 percent view it unfavorably and 31 percent are undecided.

For the full poll results, see next page.

This poll was conducted by telephone from January 11-15, 2013 among 1,110 adults nationwide.

Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line 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 may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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