AMERICANS want tighter controls on the sale of firearms, a ban on assault weapons, and favor registering handguns, according to a poll published yesterday.
The USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll of 1,014 adults was taken Dec. 17-21. It found that:
* Six out of 10 people oppose a ban on handguns, but the reverse was true for ``cheap'' handguns.
* Sixty-seven percent of respondents favor stricter firearms-control laws; 7 percent said they should be less strict. Twenty-five percent said they favor keeping laws as they are.
* Eighty-one percent favor registration; 18 percent do not.
* Eighty-seven percent approve of the Brady law.
* Eighty-nine percent said safety classes should be required before owning a gun, and 69 percent said people should only purchase one gun a month.
* Seventy-seven percent favor an assault-weapon ban.
* Twenty-five percent said they would feel more safe if only police had handguns, 34 percent would feel no difference, and 25 percent would feel less safe.
Twenty-two major cities set homicide records this year. The newspaper said 15,377 people were killed in firearms homicides in 1992 - 12,489 with handguns. Homicides among those under 18 rose by 143 percent over six years, from 602 in 1986 to 1,468 in 1992.
``A handgun homicide is committed every 42 minutes in the USA,'' the newspaper said.