Politics Magazine

Gun Laws The Public Will Support

Posted on the 16 January 2013 by Jobsanger
Gun Laws The Public Will Support(The caricature above of Vice-President Joe Biden is by DonkeyHotey.)
Vice-President Biden has submitted his proposals to President Obama for new gun laws and restrictions, and the president will reveal today which proposals he will pursue. Of course, this brings up the question of whether the public will accept or oppose the new laws. Yesterday I posted about a new Gallup Poll. That poll showed 43% want the guns laws to stay the same, while 38% wanted new gun laws (although the movement in the poll was toward new laws).
But that poll just asked about new laws in general, and did not specify what was being considered. I said at that time that I thought people were just afraid of buying a pig-in-a-poke by agreeing to new laws, and I thought the agreement would go up when specific laws were asked about. That view has been verified by a new Pew Research Center survey, taken between January 9th and 13th. When people are asked about specific proposals, the approval goes up -- sharply in some cases. Here are the results on 9 different specific proposals:
Gun Laws The Public Will SupportNote that huge majorities support background checks for gun show and private sales of guns, preventing people with a dangerous mental illness from purchasing guns, creating a federal database to track gun sales, and putting armed security or police in schools. In addition, significant majorities would support banning semi-automatic weapons, banning assault weapons, banning high capacity ammunition clips, and banning the sale of ammunition online. The only proposal that a significant majority of Americans did not like was the arming of teachers and other school employees (which I agree is a really dumb idea).
And surprisingly, many of these views cut across political lines. Huge majorities of Republicans even agreed that gun show and private gun sales should be required to have a background check, the dangerously mentally ill should not be allowed to purchase guns, and armed security or police should be put in schools -- and nearly half of Republicans agreed with the other proposals. Here is the breakdown by political persuasion:
Gun Laws The Public Will SupportThe NRA may not want any new gun laws. In fact, I think the NRA leadership would like to do away with the laws we currently have. But that is not the view of most Americans. It looks like the president has broad support from the general public for at least some new gun laws.
And it looks like that support for some new gun laws extends to most gun owners also. Over at Think Progress, they have identified four gun safety laws that gun owners would support, and a fifth that gun owners are split down the middle on. Here are those five laws:
1. Universal background checks. The poll found that a huge majority of gun owners — 86 percent — would like to see every single person who wants to purchase a firearm go through a background check. Currently, the so-called ‘gun show loophole’ allows some purchasers (those who buy used guns and those who buy at gun shows) to forgo a background check, setting up a system where criminals can easily purchase weapons.2. Background checks for ammunition purchasing. As the law currently stands, ammunition can be purchased in bulk online with absolutely no background check. This is how mass murderer James Holmes was able to stockpile so much ammunition without anyone noticing. Seventy six percent of gun owners surveyed by the Washington Post want to see this law changed by instituting background checks for buying ammunition.3. Ban on extended magazines. Extended magazine clips have been a focus of the recent gun law debate. Such clips, when used in mass killings, prove exceptionally deadly since, paired with an assault weapon, the gunman rarely has to stop and reload. Adam Lanza, the gunman responsible for the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, used extended clips, as did Holmes. There’s no reason why a clip with more than is necessary to hunt, or for self protection, and 55 percent of gun owners want to see them outlawed.4. Gun database. The United States already has a database of those who cannot buy guns — the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, NICS — but has much weaker methods of tracking the guns sold in the United States. Sixty two percent of gun owners like the idea of a database of guns purchases, so that the government has some handle on how many guns are out there. There have been reports that such a database, and a database of gun violence, might be among Biden’s suggestions.5. Assault weapons ban. There’s not quite a majority of gun owners who support an assault weapons ban, but at 45 percent popularity, it’s close to tied between those who support and those who oppose. An assault weapons ban would block military-grade weapons, like those used by Lanza and Holmes, from sale on the public market. There’s evidence that such bans reduce the number of firearms deaths.

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