We’ve posted some polling numbers here previously, specifically ones that were based on a relatively small sample size and taken immediately following the shooting, that indicated a slight increase in the desire for stricter gun control. Gallup has just concluded a slightly larger and more recent poll that seems to indicate that while gun control is one option, it’s actually fourth overall in terms of what Americans want after Sandy Hook . . .
We’ve been talking ad nauseum about how the biggest contributing factor to the lethality of the shooting and one that can be quickly solved is the insistence on gun-free school zones. And it seems that’s an opinion that is resonating with the American public. From Gallup:
Slightly more than half (53%) of Americans say that increased police presence would be very effective. This action is at the top of the effectiveness list.
After armed security comes increased spending on mental health, then violent video games (the second favorite scapegoat for spree killers’ actions), and finally gun control — waaaay down in fourth place on the list of things that people want to see.
Much of the discussion since Friday’s devastating mass shooting has focused on the potential efficacy of new laws on gun sales and ownership. Forty-two percent of Americans say that banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons would be “very effective” in preventing mass shootings. Another 21% say such actions would be “somewhat effective,” and 36% say they would be “not effective.”
The one thing that people seem to really be against is arming teachers. Only 34% believed it would be very effective at preventing a repeat performance.
The major division seems to be along party lines. Democrats vastly favor increased gun control, while Republicans seem to think it would be a waste of time.
There are major partisan differences in the ratings of several — but not all — of the potential actions tested.
The biggest differences between Democrats and Republicans are on the banning of assault weapons — 61% of Democrats rate it as very effective vs. 26% of Republicans — and spending more on mental health actions — 67% of Democrats say it would be very effective vs. 35% of Republicans.
Even among Democrats, mental health reform seems to be a bigger concern than gun control.
I think Gallup sums it up pretty well with their “bottom line,” so I’ll let them take it from here.
Americans don’t hold the belief that any one action — at least out of the six tested in this research — would be overwhelmingly effective in preventing future mass shootings at schools. At most, 53% say that an increased police presence at schools would be very effective; leaving almost half who say that such an action would be somewhat or not at all effective.
The focus since the Newtown shootings has been primarily on new gun laws. Various U.S. representatives and senators have either introduced or have promised to introduce new gun control legislation over the past several days. President Barack Obama has talked about new gun laws, and his appointment of Vice President Joe Biden to head up the White House task force to reduce gun violence will no doubt focus heavily on gun legislation. Many Americans, however, apparently continue to harbor doubts that laws, such as a ban on semi-automatic weapons, would be highly effective in preventing future mass shootings at schools.
Gallup polling conducted after previous high-profile incidents of gun-related mass shootings has shown similar attitudes in relationship to gun control. Open-ended questions asked after the tragic incidents at Virginia Tech and in Tucson, Ariz., found that respondents were more likely to suggest means of preventing these shootings that did not involve gun control than to mention preventative steps that did involve gun control.
More recently, a CBS News poll conducted after Friday’s shootings found that only 26% of Americans said that stricter gun laws would have done a lot to prevent the Newtown shootings. Half said stricter laws would have had no effect.
Gallup is updating its long-term trends on gun control and will report the results next week. It is likely that support for stricter gun laws will go up. Whether or not this public support stays higher will not be evident until months have passed. The horrific nature of this latest mass shooting, however, and the fact that it involved young children, could mean that the Newtown shootings will serve as a tipping point in Americans’ attitudes on preventing gun violence not seen after previous incidents.