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Elementary school shooting: What gun control laws might US voters support? (+video)

An elementary school shooting spree in Connecticut, in which 20 children were killed, could focus attention on gun control laws. Polls show Americans are open to limited forms of gun control.

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Yet this might not be quite the whole story. What’s clear is that US public opinion is against most flat gun bans. Seventy-three percent of respondents told Gallup that they would not support the banning of handguns, for instance.

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Presented with detailed choices, however, many voters approve of particular moves to control or limit firearm ownership.

A ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, which can carry more than 10 bullets, appears to be widely popular. A 2011 ABC News/Washington Post survey found 57 percent support for such a ban, and 39 percent opposition.

A CNN/ORC poll from last August found an almost identical result on the clip question.

As to whether all gun purchasers should undergo a background check to determine if they have committed a felony, 96 percent of respondents said “yes,” in the CNN/ORC survey.

Majorities also favored banning AK-47-style assault rifles, preventing convicted felons and the mentally ill from possessing firearms, and requiring gun owners to register guns with their local government.

The CNN survey showed Americans opposed limiting the number of guns an individual can own – but only by a 45 to 54 percent margin.

“The public favors most sensible gun policies, policies the US does not have,” concluded Harvard public health professors David Hemenway and Robert Blendon after analyzing public polls.

Finally, gun ownership in the US is already on the decline. In the 1970s, about half of US homes had firearms, according to the long-running General Social Survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Today only about one-third do.

“Driving the decline: a dramatic drop in ownership of pistols and shotguns, the very weapons most likely to be used in violent crimes,” writes Patrick Egan, an assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University in a post at the Monkey Cage blog.

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