Democrats, Republicans Split on Most Gun Issues

A gun show at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. (Photo by M&R Glasgow/Wikipedia)

(CN) — Three of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred since October 2017, but in that time there has been little change in the share of Americans who say that gun laws should be stricter, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans today say that gun laws should be stricter, up slightly from the 52 percent of people who told Pew researchers in March and April 2017 that they support stricter gun laws.

While the student survivors of the February shooting in Parkland, Florida harnessed the power of social media to launch boycotts of companies with ties to the gun industry and inspire more than 1 million people to attend March For Our Lives events, Pew’s new report found that the general public is reticent to express opinions on gun policy.

Only 18 percent of Americans have expressed their feelings about guns on social media in the past 12 months, and even fewer have contributed to an organization that takes a position on gun policy (7 percent), contacted a public official to express an opinion on gun policy (7 percent), or attended a rally or protest about guns (3 percent).

There are stark divisions between Democrats and Republicans — and between gun owners and those who do not own guns — on the impact gun restrictions might have on mass shootings. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats told Pew researchers there would be fewer mass shootings if it were harder for people to legally obtain guns, while an identical share of Republicans said that it would not make a difference.

Sixty-six percent of gun owners say that stricter gun laws would make no difference in the number of mass shootings, while 58 percent of non-gun owners say there would be fewer mass murders.

The survey found that only 17 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults own guns, while 4 in 10 Republicans do.

There is, however, bipartisan support for certain gun restrictions.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents favored preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns; 84 percent supported barring gun purchases by people on no-fly or terrorism watch lists; and 85 percent supported background checks for private sales and at gun shows.

But there is significantly less support among Republicans than Democrats for banning high-capacity magazines or assault-style weapons. Eighty-one percent of Democrats support banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, while only around 50 percent of Republicans do.

More gun-owning Democrats support these measures than gun-owning Republicans. While 62 percent of gun-owning Democrats support banning high-capacity magazines, only 35 percent of gun-owning Republicans say the same. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats who own guns support banning assault weapons, compared to 31 percent of gun-owning Republicans.

There is a significant gap between Democrats, Republicans, and gun owners in both parties as to whether teachers and school officials should be allowed to carry guns in primary and secondary schools. Eighty-two percent of gun-owning Republicans and 57 percent of non-gun-owning Republicans support this, while 37 percent of gun-owning and 19 percent of non-gun-owning Democrats support it.

Half of Democratic gun owners favor allowing concealed carrying of guns in more places, compared with just 21 percent of Democrats who do not own guns.

A slight majority of respondents said it is more important to control gun ownership (52 percent), than to protect the right of Americans to own guns (44 percent).

Women are much more likely than men to say it is more important to control gun ownership than to protect the right to own guns. Sixty-two percent of women said gun control is more important than ownership, while only 33 percent of men agreed.

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