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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 03/18/2008

SCOTUS: 2nd Amendment

As the Supreme Court takes up an historic guns case, a new Washington Post poll shows nearly three-quarters of Americans believe the 2nd amendment extends to individuals, that gun rights are not limited to "militias."

A thornier question, however, is how this privilege stacks up with governmental interest in controlling guns. And after considering the constitutional rights, the public is evenly split on whether ownership rights or gun control should be a higher priority.

But there's broader agreement on a D.C.-like ban on private handguns and trigger lock requirements, the subject of today's hearing. Nearly six in 10 would support such a law in their state. In a January D.C. poll, three-quarters of District residents supported the plan, including six in 10 who said they were "strongly" behind the law.

Men are more likely than women to say the 2nd amendment extends gun rights to individuals (80 to 65 percent). Agreement across party lines on this: 83 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats agree individuals carry a constitutional privilege to bear arms.

Men are also more apt than women to prioritize the protection of those rights over gun control (53 percent among men to 41 percent among women). Big regional differences on this question as well: 70 percent in the Northeast said it's more important to limit gun ownership, compared with 58 percent in the West, 43 percent in the Midwest and 40 percent in the South.

More than six in 10 Republicans said the emphasis should be on individual rights, while about as many Democrats would prefer gun control. 57 percent of independents would opt for gun control, 41 percent for protecting rights.

Two-thirds of women would support a state law similar to the D.C. one under review, but support drops to 50 percent among men. About two-thirds of Democrats and independents alike support such a law; 55 percent of Republicans are opposed.

Complete data from the poll is here.

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 03/18/2008

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