Support for tighter gun control laws continues to rise in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, and another new poll finds that support for stricter gun laws is at its highest point in years.
In the new HuffPost/YouGov survey of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 21-22, 55 percent of Americans said that gun control laws should be made more strict, 13 percent said they should be made less strict, and 27 percent said there should be no change. Support for stricter laws in the new poll is even higher than it was in another HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted immediately after the shooting took place, when 50 percent of respondents said that that gun control laws should be made stricter.
A USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday also found that American support for stricter guns laws is at its highest since 2004, but that blanket bans on some guns would remain a political challenge.
The Gallup poll of 1,038 adults, conducted Dec. 19-22, found 47 percent of Americans now favor passing new gun laws rather than simply ramping up enforcement of current law, a 12-year high. Fifty-eight percent of Americans would like to see stricter gun laws, a 15-point jump since October 2011. The poll had a 4 percentage point margin of error.
But underneath a broad openness to some changes, opinions on specific new restrictions varied sharply in the Gallup poll. Support for requiring background checks at gun shows, a measure proposed by President Barack Obama, is nearly unanimous, with 92 percent favoring the change. A proposed ban on semi-automatic guns, however, earns a much smaller majority of support. Public support for a ban on handguns has continued to drop, reaching a record low this year, with just a quarter in favor.
In spite of growing support for stricter gun laws, the HuffPost/YouGov survey found that the National Rifle Association, the leading gun rights advocacy group in the nation, receives higher positive than negative ratings, though negative views of the organization may be increasing in the wake its statement blaming the Newtown shooting on violence in the media and calling for armed guards to be placed in schools. Forty percent of respondents said they have a favorable opinion and 36 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion of the organization, while 24 percent said they were unsure. An earlier YouGov poll conducted in February for the Economist found that the NRA was ranked more favorably than unfavorably by a 36 percent to 28 percent margin, suggesting that unfavorable views of the organization may be increasing faster than favorable views.
Support for the NRA was highest among respondents who said that either they or members of their household belong to the group; 93 percent of NRA members and 71 percent of those with an NRA member in their household had a favorable opinion of the organization.
Overall, 10 percent of respondents said they or someone in their household is an NRA member, while 41 percent said they or someone in their household owns a gun. Among those in non-NRA households, 41 percent viewed the group unfavorably while 34 percent viewed it favorably. Views were more decidedly against the NRA among those living in households where nobody owns a gun, with 45 percent viewing it unfavorably and 26 percent viewing it favorably.
The poll also found mixed reviews of the NRA's proposal to place armed guards in every American school, but with support outpacing opposition. Overall, 45 percent of respondents said they either approved or strongly approved of the proposal, while 41 percent said they disapproved or strongly disapproved.
The survey found that both gun owners in general and NRA members in particular were much less likely than the general public to say that gun laws should be made more strict. Past surveys of NRA members and gun owners, however, including one conducted in July of this year by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, have found that NRA members do support certain gun control measures, such as increased use of background checks and requiring gun owners to complete gun safety training.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, though that inherent variation does not take into account other potential sources of error, including statistical bias in the sample. The poll used a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."