Record number of Americans oppose handgun ban

An unprecedented number of Americans support the right to own a handgun, despite the recent mass killings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that have renewed the push for gun control.

Even with the killings in Newtown as a backdrop, a new Gallup poll shows 74 percent of Americans now support the right to possess a handgun, while just 24 percent would support a ban.

In fact, the Gallup poll is a near-perfect example of why passing gun control legislation will be difficult.

While a significant majority of Americans say they support new gun measures -- 58 percent (up from 44 percent last year) -- those same people can't seem to come to an agreement when it comes to specific laws.

In contrast to other polling, Gallup even shows a majority of Americans remain opposed to an assault weapons ban -- something the American people supported as recently as a decade ago.

This is very much like what happens with tax loopholes: People broadly like the idea of closing them, but once you start talking specifics (like the mortgage interest deduction), they don't find a whole lot not to like.

And as the gun debate heats up in the coming weeks, these numbers should serve as a reminder that the American people will almost definitely like the idea of new gun control laws more than the actual laws themselves.

Which makes this a very difficult issue for Congress to legislate.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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