And there is public support for such policies. The Post-ABC poll finds 50 percent of Americans support enacting new laws to reduce gun violence, down from a peak of 57 percent after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Just over 4 in 10, 43 percent, of Americans say protecting the right to own guns should be a bigger priority, up from 34 percent in 2018.
The poll comes after several mass shootings this year, including those that left eight dead at Atlanta-area Asian spas, eight dead at an Indianapolis FedEx warehouse and 10 dead at a Colorado grocery store. President Biden has faced pressure to pursue stricter gun laws and policies, and this month he announced executive actions, including new rules on guns assembled at home and actions to make it harder for unqualified people to obtain firearms. Biden also pledged to push for sweeping changes to the country’s firearm laws, though any new legislation will face tall odds in a closely divided Senate.
Most Americans hold strong views on the issue, but the balance of those views appears to have shifted in the past three years. Today, 42 percent of Americans say that they “strongly” believe that enacting new laws should be a priority, while 38 percent say they strongly believe that protecting the right to own guns should be prioritized. In 2018, strong support for enacting new laws outpaced strong support for protecting gun rights by 50 percent to 31 percent.
While other polls have found that the vast majority of Americans support expanding background checks for buying guns and enacting red-flag laws, which allow firearms to be taken from people deemed dangerous, the lower level of support for new gun laws may be a more telling indicator for the political prospects of new legislation. In April 2013, a small majority prioritized enacting new gun laws, just before the Senate voted down the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey proposal to expand background checks.
The poll finds that while more than 8 in 10 Democrats continue to support enacting new gun laws — about the same share as in 2018 — opinions have shifted among Republicans and independents. This year, 76 percent of Republicans say that protecting the right to own guns should be a higher priority, up from 58 percent three years ago. Independents are roughly split now, with 48 percent saying that protecting the rights of gun owners should be prioritized and 43 percent prioritizing gun violence laws, while in 2018 independents prioritized new laws by a 25-point margin, 58 percent to 33 percent.
Americans are divided evenly on whether Biden is doing too much to enact new laws trying to reduce gun violence (32 percent) or whether he is doing too little (32 percent), with an additional 28 percent saying he is doing the right amount.
Six in 10 Republicans say Biden is doing “too much” to enact new laws to reduce gun violence, while about half of Democrats say he’s doing “too little,” including 56 percent of liberal Democrats who say Biden’s actions fall short. Independents are roughly split across too much, too little and the right amount.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone among a random national sample of 1,007 adults, with 75 percent reached on cellphones and 25 percent on landlines. Results have a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points for the full sample.