Gun control: Public support is waning, poll finds

Even as Congress prepares to vote on gun control legislation, public support for stricter gun laws has fallen from 57 percent after the Newtown massacre to 47 percent in a new poll.

Cliff Owen / AP / File
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada addresses reporters at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 14. Senator Reid has said he removed an assault weapons ban from a wider gun bill because he determined it would not garner the votes needed to pass.restrictions.

As Congress prepares to vote on a comprehensive gun control bill next month, a poll released Tuesday shows that public support is waning for restrictions on gun ownership.

According to a CBS News poll, less than half the public (47 percent) now supports stricter gun control laws, compared with 57 percent in late December following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Those who say they want less strict gun regulation (10 percent) has hardly wavered in that time period, although those who want current gun laws kept as they are has increased four percentage points, from 30 to 34 percent.

The poll of 1,181 adults across the country was conducted March 20-24 and has a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The Newtown massacre, which left 20 children and six adults dead, ignited a national debate over harsher restrictions on guns, particularly assault weapons. However Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada announced this month he was excluding an assault weapons ban from a wider gun bill because he determined it would not garner the votes needed to pass.

“I’m not going to try to put something on the floor that won’t succeed. I want something that will succeed. The worst thing in the world would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there,” Senator Reid said. By his estimation, the legislation had support from fewer than 40 senators. At least 60 votes are needed for passage.

President Obama is calling for a vote on the ban as a symbolic measure. White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday it “will be a question for all 100 members of the Senate to ask themselves about whether or not they think that voting for and supporting an assault weapons ban would actually do something to reduce gun violence in communities all across the country.… We’re going to have that debate.”

The current gun control legislation will include a proposal for universal background checks and provisions to eliminate straw purchases of guns. The vote could come as early as April 8 when the Senate returns to session.

Perhaps serving as an indicator for how the Senate will vote, the current CBS poll shows that well over half of Democrats (66 percent) favor stricter gun control laws, joined by only one-third of Republicans (29 percent) and 43 percent of independents. In February, 78 percent of Democrats supported harsher gun laws. 

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