Various guns are displayed at a store on July 18, 2022, in Auburn, Maine. Most U.S. adults think gun violence is increasing nationwide and want to see gun laws made stricter. That's according to a new poll that finds broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions. The poll comes from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)BY SARA BURNETT
CHICAGO (AP) — Most U.S. adults think gun violence is increasing nationwide and want to see gun laws made stricter, according to a new poll that finds broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions, including many that are supported by majorities of Republicans and gun owners.
The poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also shows majorities of U.S. adults view both reducing gun violence and protecting gun ownership as important issues.
The poll was conducted between July 28 and Aug. 1, after a string of deadly mass shootings — from a New York grocery store to a school in Texas and a July 4 parade in Illinois — and a 2020 spike in gun killings that have increased attention on the issue of gun violence. Overall, 8 in 10 Americans perceive that gun violence is increasing around the country, and about two-thirds say it’s increasing in their state, though less than half believe it’s increasing in their community, the poll shows.
The question of how to prevent such violence has long divided politicians and many voters, making it difficult to change gun laws. In June, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court expanded gun rights, finding a constitutional right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
Later that same month, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill. The package, approved in the wake of shootings like the one that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, was both a measured compromise and the most significant bill addressing gun violence to be approved in Congress in decades — an indication of how intractable the issue has become.
The poll found 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats, and a majority of those in gun-owning households.
Nicole Whitelaw, 29, is a Democrat and gun owner who grew up hunting and target shooting in upstate New York with her strongly Republican family. Whitelaw, who now lives along Florida’s Gulf Coast, supports some gun restrictions, such as prohibiting people convicted of domestic violence from owning firearms and a federal law preventing mentally ill people from purchasing guns.
She said other restrictions — such as banning sales of AR-15 rifles — are “going too far” and may not solve the problem. Whitelaw pointed to the the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people bought up all the toilet paper they could find.
“I think people would start trying to hoard guns,” she said, adding that a better approach is to make smaller changes and see what impact they have.
The poll shows bipartisan majorities of Americans support a nationwide background check policy for all gun sales, a law preventing mentally ill people from purchasing guns, allowing courts to temporarily prevent people who are considered a danger to themselves or others from purchasing a gun, making 21 the minimum age to buy a gun nationwide and banning those who have been convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun.
A smaller majority of Americans, 59%, favor a ban on the sale of AR-15 rifles and similar semiautomatic weapons, with Democrats more likely to support that policy than Republicans, 83% vs. 35%.
Chris Boylan, 47, from Indianapolis, opposes restrictions on guns. As a teacher for many years, Boylan said he has “buried more kids than I care to count” and believes gun violence is a major problem. But the Republican, who said he leans more toward Libertarian in his personal stances, believes the issue is more about mental health and a too-lenient criminal justice system.