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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 10:49 AM ET, 06/26/2008


In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today overturned a 32-year-old District of Columbia law limiting private gun ownership, for the first time expressly extending the Constitution's Second Amendment to private citizens.

That ruling is also a split decision with respect to where the public stands on these issues.

In a recent Washington Post poll, 72 percent of all Americans said they believe individuals have gun rights under the Second Amendment, that such protections are not limited to "militias." Twenty percent thought the constitutional guarantee covers "only the rights of the states to maintain militias."

But 58 percent in that national poll supported a D.C.-like ban on private handguns and trigger lock requirements; 38 percent opposed those restrictions. (In a January Post poll in the District itself, even more, 76 percent, favored the law, including 60 percent who said they were "strongly" behind the city ordinance.)

Those data are here.

In last week's Post-ABC national poll, just 1 percent called guns or gun control the election's single top concern. But that may underestimate the issue's potential political importance.

Forty-two percent of all American adults reported having a gun in the house, and they broke for John McCain over Barack Obama by a wide, 17 percentage point, margin. That gap crosses party lines, and independents from households with at least one gun tilt toward McCain, while those without firearms lean toward Obama. (George W. Bush beat John F. Kerry in 2004 by 27 points among gun owners, according to the network exit polls.)

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The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

In your opinion does this guarantee only the right of the states to maintain militias, or also the right of individuals to own guns?

SOURCE: Washington Post poll conducted by telephone by ICR, an independent research company. Interviews were conducted from March 7 - 10, 2008 among a nationally representative sample of 707 respondents age 18 and older. Results have a four point error margin.

By  |  10:49 AM ET, 06/26/2008

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