Support for new gun-control laws has risen to levels higher than after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in 2012, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with a slight majority of Americans saying student protests for greater gun restrictions represent a “lasting movement.”
As students prepare to walk out of schools Friday in protest on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings, the poll finds clear majority support for three specific and recently debated restrictions, including an assault-weapons ban, raising the age restriction on certain guns and “red-flag laws” that let police remove guns from people deemed dangerous.
More broadly, a 57 percent majority of Americans say enacting new laws to try to reduce gun violence should be a priority, an increase from 46 percent who said this in 2015 and 52 percent five months after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
There are mixed signs that gun-control supporters will have more sway at the ballot box. Support for new gun laws has grown among Democratic-leaning groups as well as swing-voting demographics. But at the same time, people who strongly prioritize new gun laws are no more likely to say they’re certain to vote in this November’s elections than the public overall (58 percent each).
In addition, while 41 percent of those who strongly prioritize new gun laws say agreeing with a congressional candidate on gun policy is “extremely important,” a larger 50 percent of those who strongly prioritize gun rights say the same.
Whatever the electoral consequences, a slim 53 percent majority say that students across the country holding rallies to call for stricter gun laws represent a lasting movement, while 43 percent say it is more of a one-time thing.
Support for new proposals
The poll finds broad agreement on two specific proposals discussed since the Parkland shooting. An 85 percent majority of Americans supports a law allowing police to take guns from people who have been found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others, which are known as red-flag laws and exist in five states, including California and Connecticut. A 72 percent majority supports raising the legal age to buy rifles and shotguns to 21 in all states.
Red-flag laws have the support of more than 8 in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents, including at least two-thirds who support them “strongly.” Raising the legal age for buying rifles and shotguns garners support from 87 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans.
Most Americans living in gun-owning households also back proposals for a red-flag law and increased age limits. More than 8 in 10 (81 percent) of those in gun-owning households support red-flag laws, and 63 percent support raising the national age to buy rifles or shotguns to 21 years old. Support for both policies is even higher in households without guns.
Banning the sale of assault weapons wins support from 62 percent of adults overall but elicits sharper divisions between partisans and households with and without guns at home. Less than half of Republicans support an assault weapons ban (45 percent), compared with 59 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats. And while more than three-quarters of people without a gun at home support such a ban, gun households split 49 percent in support and 48 percent in opposition of banning assault weapons.
Most Americans continue to say Congress and President Trump are not doing enough to stop mass shootings, with views little changed from a Post-ABC poll immediately after the Parkland shooting. The survey finds 59 percent say Trump is not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, roughly similar to 62 percent in February. The share who say Trump is doing enough is up from 29 percent in February to 34 percent this month. A larger 71 percent say Congress is not doing enough, compared with 77 percent two months ago.
Groups behind rising support for gun laws
The rise in support for new gun legislation has grown in popularity among several demographic groups that lean Democratic, as well as some swing voting groups including suburbanites and white women.
Support for prioritizing new gun laws is also up 16 points among people ages 18 to 29 and up 12 points among seniors compared with April 2013, five months after the Newtown shootings. It has also grown 10 points among people who live in the suburbs, 11 points among independents and eight points among Democrats.
The share of white women prioritizing new gun laws over gun rights has grown 12 points since 2013, from 50 percent to 62 percent. This view is also up 11 points among women overall.
Among Republicans, a 58 percent majority prioritizes protecting gun rights over enacting new laws, down from 71 percent in 2015 but identical to opinions in 2013.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 8 to 11 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults reached on cell and landline phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.