September 10, 2019
NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll Results & Analysis, Gun Laws, September 2019
Americans want Congress to pass gun restrictions and are consistent in their views that protecting gun rights should take a back seat to controlling gun violence. In fact, 55% of Americans think controlling gun violence should be the priority.
Gender differences are present, a theme which permeates Americans’ attitudes toward gun restrictions. More than two in three women (67%) believe controlling gun violence should take precedence over protecting gun rights. A slim majority of men (51%) have the opposite view. At least a majority of Americans living in all but the most rural parts of the country consider controlling gun violence to be the priority. 54% of Americans who describe the place where they live as rural believe preserving gun rights is more important.
When presented with six legislative proposals which would limit gun access, nearly three in four Americans (74%) report Congress should pass at least three of them. This includes 32% of residents nationally who think all six should be passed. Just 11% of Americans say none of the proposed restrictions should become law.
“One is hard pressed to find another issue where so many Americans want legislative action and nothing is forthcoming,” says Dr. Lee Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “There are several, so-called “common sense,” initiatives with a national consensus that the public is looking for Congressional leaders to champion.”
When it comes to proposals to limit access to guns, the greatest consensus exists on background checks. Most Americans (83%), including 95% of Democrats, 72% of Republicans, and 84% of independents, think Congress should pass legislation which requires background checks for purchases at gun shows or other private sales.
More than seven in ten Americans (72%) also favor a red flag law which would allow police or family members to request that a judge temporarily remove guns from a person who may be a danger to others or themselves. The identical proportion (72%) think Congress should pass legislation which requires individuals to obtain a license before being able to purchase a gun. Regardless of party identification, at least a majority of Americans support these restrictions.
Even gun owners support many firearm restrictions. 58% of gun owners, including 19% who say all six presented options should be passed, report Congress should pass at least three of the proposals. Only 14% of gun owners think the current Congress should not pass any of the proposed gun restrictions this year.
Most Democrats (95%), seven in ten independents (70%), and even 54% of Republicans think at least three of the proposed gun restrictions should be passed into law. While men and women agree that Congress should pass at least three of the presented gun restriction proposals, women (84%) are more likely than men (61%) to have this view.
While majorities of Americans think Congress should pass laws which ban the purchase of high-capacity ammunition magazines (61%) or ban the sale of semi-automatic assault guns such as the AK-47 and the AR-15 (57%), partisan differences exist. Most Democrats and a majority of independents support these proposals. A majority of Republicans oppose them.
Notably, gun owners divide on the issue of banning high-capacity ammunition magazines. 47% think Congress should pass legislation to ban the sale while 50% say they should not. Also, more than seven in ten women (72%) believe the sale of semi-automatic assault guns should be banned while a majority of men (55%) say Congress should not pass legislation to do so.
Legislation for a mandatory buyback program of assault guns is the most divisive proposal among Americans. 46% do not think Congress should pass such legislation, including 68% of Republicans, 54% of independents, 61% of gun owners, and 61% of men. 45% of Americans, including 70% of Democrats and 55% of women, think Congress should pass such a law.
When looking at other measures, most Americans (89%) think Congress should pass legislation which increases funding for mental health screening and treatment. This proposal receives bipartisan support. However, a majority of Americans (57%), including 82% of Democrats and 57% of independents, do not think Congress should pass legislation which would allow teachers to carry guns. Here, Republicans (62%) and gun owners (55%) are among the minority of Americans (37%) who think Congress should pass legislation allowing teachers to carry guns.