Public opinion favors stricter handgun laws

An increasing number of Americans favor both stricter laws governing the sale of handguns and laws that would forbid the possession of such weapons by anyone except police and other law-enforcement authorities.

This is the conclusion that emerges from polls by the Gallup Organization Inc. on gun control, the latest of which came out Jan. 26. In addition, the results of two other national polls -- by Cambridge Reports Inc. and the Louis Harris organization -- indicate that the vast majority of Americans favor much tighter control of the sale of handguns.

The January Gallup survey also showed much more accute self-examination on the issue of gun control -- that many more Americans were reconsidering their past thinking on gun control, although it did not indicate which way they were leaning. This same poll showed that that 62 pecent of the people favored stricter laws governing the sale of handguns. On the same question a year ago, 59 percent of those polled said they favored stricter control. And while only 4 percent of the people could not make up their minds in 1980, in the 1981 poll 11 percent could not.

On the question of whether people thought there should be a law forbidding the possession of handguns except by authorities, Gallup found 38 percent said "yes." This question was not asked in the January sampling, but in a 1979 poll 31 percent favored such a ban.

In the recent poll, 51 percent said there "should not" be a law banning possession while 65 percent said the same thing in the previous poll.

A Cambridge Reports Inc. poll in June 1978 found that 88 percent of those polled favored a "waiting period" to allow for a criminal records check before a prospective handgun buyer could actually take possession of the gun.

In a breakdown by region, the January Gallup poll showed surprisingly strong support for "more strict" laws governing sales of handguns. Favorable responses were as follows: 67 percent in the East, 54 percent in the Midwest, 63 percent in the South, and 66 percent in the West.

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