Polls show what Americans think about gun control laws

National Constitution Center

A review of nine recent national polls shows that two gun control ideas have widespread support among Americans, and citizens have concerns about Second Amendment issues.

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Constitution Daily looked at polls and surveys taken this month from sources including Gallup, Pew Research, Public Religion Research Institute, CNN/Time, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Fox News, ABC/Washington Post, AP-GFK, and CBS/New York Times.

Link: See major polls with gun control questions

While the nine polls didn’t ask many of the same questions, or asked about gun violence in the context of other issues, there were 12 gun-related topics that were addressed in at least two polls.

In fact, the same three hot-button questions popped up in seven of the nine polls.

By an overwhelming majority, Americans favor background checks for gun sales and in most cases, for sales at gun shows. The average response was 88 percent in favor of background checks, with a low of 84 percent for the Associated Press poll and a high of 92 percent in surveys from CBS and CNN.

Two other questions, asked in seven polls, were about controversial measures that will be included in proposed congressional anti-gun-violence legislation.

By an average response of 57 percent, people favored a ban on high-capacity gun clips, while 56 percent of Americans approved of a ban on assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

But when it comes to a perceived need for gun control versus the right to own guns, as interpreted by courts in the context of the Second Amendment, Americans seem split on the issue.

About 50 percent of people, in an average of three polls, were concerned that gun-control legislation would take weapons away from them, or believed protection from gun violence was a lesser concern than protecting their Second Amendment rights.

In addition to background checks, another idea that has widespread support is devoting more funds and attention to mental health issues. An average of 83 percent of people surveyed in four polls favored increased attention to mental health programs.

Of the 12 ideas that appeared across the grouping of nine polls, the least popular was arming teachers and school officials with guns. It only had a support rate of 41 percent.

The National Rifle Association was given a favorable rating of 48 percent in an average of five polls.

While that number may seem low, the NRA compared favorably to other organizations, especially in a poll from NBC and The Wall Street Journal.

In the NBC poll, the NRA received a 41 percent favorable rating, compared with 24 percent for the entertainment industry.

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On Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a proposed assault weapons ban at a press conference in Washington. Her proposal includes a ban on guns that have a permanent magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The measure is expected to have a difficult time passing in the Senate before it can head to a GOP-controlled House.

Senator Joe Manchin says he’s working with the NRA on the issue of background checks as he seeks to push out a separate piece of legislation. The NRA has indicated in some recent public comments that it may support stricter background checks, with some exceptions.

In its own polling, the NRA says its members widely support keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and they are deeply opposed to bans on semi-automatic weapons.

Table: Results from Recent Polls with Gun-Control Questions

Topic Pew Gallup PRRI Fox CNN NBC CBS AP ABC Average
Mandatory background checks 85 91 91 89.5 92 84 88 88.6
More mental health programs/prevent sales 80 82 89 82 83.3
Stricter enforcement of current laws 72 86 79.0
National database of gun sales 67 78 71 72.0
Concerns about limits on media violence 52 75 54 60.3
Support armed guards in schools 64 60 54 55 58.3
Ban high-capacity clips 54 54 56 58 63 51 65 57.3
Ban semi-automatic and assault weapons 56.5 60 54 56 53 55 58 56.1
Favor stronger gun control laws 53 60 55 56 54 58 56.0
Taking guns/concerned about Second Amendment 45 51 53 51 50.0
Favorable opinion of the NRA 57 56 48 41 38 48.0
Support arming teachers with guns 40 42 41.0
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