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Guns On College Campuses Divides Americans' Opinion In New Poll

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Protesters in opposition to the Virginia Citizens Defense League's stance of allowing holders of concealed weapons permits to bring their weapons on campus hold signs on one side of Kuafman Mall at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. A new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds Americans are split over whether guns should be allowed on college campuses, but they believe gun bans are more likely to keep schools safer. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Vicki Cronis-Nohe) | AP

NEW YORK -- Americans have a mixed opinion on whether guns should be allowed on college campuses, but a plurality of respondents to a new poll believe banning firearms on campus would make universities safer.

A HuffPost/YouGov survey shows Americans are split evenly at 43 percent for and against when asked whether people with proper permits should be allowed to carry concealed guns on college campuses. The other 14 percent said they were unsure.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn. school shooting in December, a renewed debate over gun control laws has caused hundreds of college presidents to speak out, calling for President Barack Obama and Congress to take swift action. The slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the second-deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history, behind the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University, where 32 people were killed and 17 others were injured.

In one open letter, which has more than 300 signatures from public and private college presidents, they specifically voiced opposition to state laws that allow guns on campus. Many state universities, through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, are also on record opposing guns on campus. But while university chiefs are united, the HuffPost/YouGov poll found the general public to be divided.

The division in opinion was consistent throughout all ages, but women and self-identified Democrats were more likely to oppose allowing guns on campus. Just 33 percent of women favor allowing guns on campus, compared to 54 percent of men.

While Americans are split on whether citizens with permits should be allowed to carry firearms at colleges, only a third think more guns on campus would improve safety.

Forty-five percent said banning guns was more likely to keep a campus safer, with 33 percent saying they'd be safer if more students and faculty were packing heat. Again, Democrats and women were more likely to say banning guns is the better idea. In this question, self-identified independents said more students and faculty carrying guns would make a campus safer (39 percent), with fewer (33 percent) favoring campus gun bans.

A handful of states currently allow guns on campus, and many more leave it to campus discretion, which almost always results in a campus gun ban.

When survey respondents to the HuffPost/YouGov poll were asked if private colleges should be allowed to ban guns on their own campuses in states where it would otherwise be legal, a clear majority (63 percent) said yes, they should be able to ban them, with only 22 percent opposed.

In the past few years, 23 bills have been proposed by state lawmakers to allow firearms on campus, barring university officials from deciding for their own campus. Most were either defeated or died without a full vote. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vetoed a bill shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting that would've allowed concealed guns in schools. Snyder cited his own experience, in which two students were killed during a campus shooting in 1981, when he was a resident adviser while in law school at the University of Michigan.

More legislation is on the horizon from both sides: Two Democrats in Colorado currently have a bill that would restrict guns on campus, while an Indiana Republican wants to allow students conceal carry rights on campus.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Jan. 3-4 among 1,000 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 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.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

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