The stark divide over gun laws — in two charts

October 25, 2013

The best way to describe Americans' overall attitude to current gun laws? One word -- split.

A new Gallup poll shows that nearly half of adults say laws concerning guns sales should be tightened, while 50 percent say they should be unaltered or loosened.

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It's been nearly a year since the deadly mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school, and since the immediate aftermath of the rampage, public opinion has trended away from stricter guns laws. The percentage of Americans who say laws involving gun sales should be stricter has dropped by nine points. Meanwhile, the share of the public that says they favor keeping laws as they are or loosening them has increased.

While Americans' positions on gun laws are rooted in numerous factors like geography and lifestyle, there is an unmistakable divide along party lines. The chart below bears this out. The top two Demographic groups favoring tighter guns laws: Democrats and liberals. The bottom two: Republicans and conservatives.

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While Americans are split over gun laws generally, advocates of stricter laws note the popularity of specific measures like expanding background on gun purchases, an idea which has attracted the support of 90 percent of the public.

A effort to tighten gun laws -- rooted heavily in a push for expanded background checks -- failed in the Senate earlier this year. It's possible that lawmakers will make another attempt during this Congress, but for now, there are no signs gun-control advocates would have any more success that they did the first time.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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