Poll: Majorities Of Both Parties Favor Increased Gun Restrictions

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The recent shooting in Las Vegas has sparked some soul searching, certainly more debate about guns in this country. And we have a new poll out this morning from NPR and Ipsos. And it reveals overwhelming support for various gun control measures across the political spectrum. NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben is here to talk this through with us. Hi, Danielle.


GREENE: So what stood out to you here when it comes to American attitudes about gun control right now?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, there are a couple big things. One is that we found that some gun control ideas really do get a lot of support. We found that 8 in 10 people are in favor of a variety of bans - for example, a ban on assault-style weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines and a ban on bump stocks. Now, that we've heard about since Las Vegas. It increases the rate at which a semi-automatic gun fires.

GREENE: Right.

KURTZLEBEN: But perhaps surprisingly, this includes strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans. Around 7 in 10 Republicans supported those bans, as well. But there is a bit of an enthusiasm gap here. While Dems tended to strongly favor those sorts of bans we talked about, Republicans - they're more somewhat in favor of them.

GREENE: Well, are there still larger disagreements, though, when it comes to gun control, I mean, if - even if there's some agreement forming around specific ideas like those?

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, absolutely. What we found is that both parties - they tend to look at guns through pretty different lenses. This is a pretty obvious question. But, you know, 7 in 10 Republicans told us that they believe that the benefits of guns outweigh the risks, compared to 3 in 10 Democrats. Once again, it's what you would expect to hear. But perhaps relatedly, Republicans were more likely to underestimate the levels of fatalities from crime, accidents and suicides that gun-owning homes face. What we seem to draw from this is that, you know, Democrats look at a gun - they're more likely to see risk. We're painting with a broad brush here, but they're more likely to see that, whereas Republicans are more likely to look at a gun and see protection and safety.

GREENE: Oh, interesting. So it really is different lenses.

KURTZLEBEN: Absolutely.

GREENE: So is public opinion turning in some significant way, if there a way to measure this broadly? I mean, I remember the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School - a lot of people thought, this is going to change the game, result in stricter gun measures, bring a lot of the country together. We didn't see a lot of new, stricter gun measures.


GREENE: So are things changing?

KURTZLEBEN: I mean, you know, we shouldn't necessarily see this as a turning point in people's attitudes on guns. You know, it is not unusual to see a small spike or a moderate spike in gun control support after a high-profile mass shooting. We saw something like this after Sandy Hook, like you said. We saw it after Columbine. You know, one of the pollsters we worked with told me that he thinks that this poll represents a 15 to 20-point bump in support for some gun control legislation post-Las Vegas. I mean, really, the thing to think about is that, overall, the trend, when you take out the spikes, has been away from more gun control support. The share saying that they think laws should be stronger has really declined since the '90s.

GREENE: So these fundamental divisions are - I mean, are helpful in explaining why the debate over gun controls has remained so static.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Absolutely. And I mean - you know, I think one great way to look at this is through the lens of identity. Yes, it's about policy. Yes, it's about, you know, specifically owning a firearm in your household. But people identify as gun owners. And some people identify as people who are opposed to gun control. Those identities are very hard to dislodge. You know, we likewise see a pretty strong urban-rural divide in gun ownership. We saw that in the election, as well. These sorts of identities - urban, rural, gun owner and not - they're hard to change. And, therefore, people really stay very mired in the positions they're in.

GREENE: All right? Talking through a new NPR/Ipsos poll on guns in America with NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben. Danielle, thanks.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. Thank you.





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