CNN Poll: Bare majority now support major gun restrictions
December 19th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Bare majority now support major gun restrictions

Washington (CNN) - Americans are reacting to the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut with elevated levels of anger, shock and fear that have led a growing number of people to look for action from the government and society that can prevent future incidents, according to a new national survey.

And the CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday also indicates that a bare majority now favor major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban on gun ownership by ordinary citizens and more than six in ten favor a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles.

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The survey was conducted Monday and Tuesday, following Friday's horrific incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School when a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle killed 20 young children and six adults.

Forty-six percent of people questioned in the poll say that that government and society can take action to prevent future gun violence. That's up 13 percentage points from January 2011, following a shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona that left six dead and some, including then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, severely injured. A 53% majority still believes that attacks will continue to happen regardless of any action taken, but that's down 13 points from January 2011.

"Any changes in attitudes towards guns and gun violence are likely due to the highly emotional reaction many Americans have had to the recent shootings," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

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Just over eight in ten express shock and anger over the events in Connecticut, with nearly half saying they feel fearful in response to the shootings.

"All of those numbers are much higher than they were in a CNN poll conducted in January, 2011, indicating that the tragedy in Connecticut may be affecting more Americans more intensely than other recent attacks," added Holland.

Does that translate into a call for greater restrictions on guns?

The number of Americans who favor major restrictions or an outright ban has typically hovered just under the 50% mark in recent years; now that number is just over 50%. According to the poll 52% say they favor major restrictions on guns or making all guns illegal. That's a five point rise from a CNN survey conducted in early August, following the mass shooting in July at a movie theater in suburban Denver, Colorado that left 12 dead, and shootings two weeks later at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where six people were killed. The five point rise is within the poll's sampling error.

Forty-three percent say last Friday's elementary school shootings in Connecticut makes them more likely to support gun control laws, a 15 point increase from January 2011 following the Arizona incident. Half of those questioned say the school shootings have not changed their opinions on gun control, down 19 points from January 2011.

On specific proposals, the American public has had a clear and consistent position for years. There is nearly unanimous support for background checks and more than nine in ten believe that some people, such as convicted felons and people with mental health problems, should be prevented from owning guns. Nearly eight in ten favor gun restrictions laws and 62% support a ban on semi-automatic assault guns and also high-capacity ammunition clips. Fifty-two percent oppose a limit on the number of guns an individual can own.

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The survey indicates the expected partisan divide on gun control. Nearly eight in ten Democrats say they favor major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban. That number drops to 42% among independents and 31% among Republicans. There's also a gender gap, with 41% of men saying say support major restrictions or an outright ban, with that number jumping to 62% among women.

The poll's release comes on the same day that President Barack Obama announced that Vice President Joe Biden will lead an administration effort to develop recommendations no later than January for preventing another tragedy like last week's elementary school shooting.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International December 17-18, with 620 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll
soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. lovespandas

    Address the sick people that perpetrate these horrendous crimes. McVey didn't shoot all those people he killed. Guns aren't the problem.

    December 19, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. John Maroney

    Do you all understand what governments do when they take guns away from their citizens? Go do some history before you make the biggest mistake in American history.

    December 19, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. Brian

    A smarter man than I once said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."(Thomas Jefferson) It is times like these we need to heed these words. Emotional knee jerk reactions to pass more laws, or ban guns outright, are flat out wrong. Pass stricter gun control laws, ban guns, end sales of high capacity magazines and I guarantee two things: 1) There will still be mentally unstable individuals capable of unspeakable atrocities and 2) The rights we lose will never return. Some of you may willingly give up freedom, but don't expect the rest of us to go along because it makes you feel better.

    December 19, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. Dennis

    "As one Newtown mother put it very well on PBS yesterday about the argument that somehow legal gun owners can guard themselves or others effectively –
    she said "a point about guns fighting guns. I don't think that worked
    out very well for Nancy Lanza. She owned six guns. And she's not with
    us, period."

    There is something very wrong with this theory. Guns did not kill Nancy, her son did.

    December 19, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. JD

    The issue for the NRA isn't gun sales. The issue is that the sheeple in the UK and Australia agreed to an assault weapons ban. Then the gun control advocates said "well handguns are the problem so lets give them up" and the silent majority let it happen all of the promise that fox hunting, birding, deer hunting wouldn't be affected. Once they got that approved the stealth laws kept getting passed until now you cant own any guns. The UK biathalon team for the olympics has to go to another country to practice because they cant own or use 22cal target rifles. Same methodology was followed in Australia. Claims by libs for gun owners not to worry that "the guns you already have are safe" and you can keep them is a screen. Once the limitations start they wont stop until you cant own any guns at all. That is what worries the NRA.

    December 19, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. John

    Define "semiautomatic assault rifle"? Are you referring to a gun that, in addition to being a semiautomatic, has one prohibited features under CA Law, two prohibited features under New Jersey law, or something else? Are you talking about a gun that has a 30 round magazine, a 10 round magazine, a 6 round magazine? It's impossible to answer the question without knowing what features you are talking about.

    December 19, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Kim

    Aren't these the same polls that had Romney neck in neck with Obama?

    December 19, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  8. Adam

    52% of your viewers.

    December 19, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. safety first

    Truly we all have a chance now to ban rapid fire guns in this country ditto the large loading
    gun magazines ,the NRA is running scared after Newton..

    December 19, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. biglio

    I love how the gun nuts get all in a froth if polls don't go their way instead of thinking that maybe the majority is taking America back....didn't the election teach you anything?

    December 19, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. mike hunt

    the first pie chart makes a peace sign.

    December 19, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. Michael

    Is anybody ELSE sick of all these polls???? I guess the pollsters have to keep themselves employed, but all CNN is anymore is polls, polls and more polls.

    By the way, I teach research methods and statistics at the graduate level, and this is a REALLY crappy study, at least based on what is presented. A national news story with questions like these and 620 respondents? C'mon CNN...bump up the sample size a bit to at least get to 1-1.5% margin of error. But how about just giving us a break from the polls?

    December 19, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    News Flash: 48% Don't.

    December 19, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. Al

    How about make this a states rights issue? A farmer on the border in Texas (who has coyotes (the human kind) and drug runners going through his property everyday) and someone in rural Alaska have a lot more reason to own a gun than a art teacher who lives in a "master planned" community in Connecticut and has 5 police stations within a 20 mile radius of him/her.

    December 19, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. Leopold Stotch

    52% of people are out of their minds. I'm keeping my guns.

    December 19, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. Frank Brady

    In the 67 year period from 1920 through 1987 when Prozac was introduced, the U.S. experienced 5 mass murder incidents that resulted in the deaths of 87 people. In the 26 years since Prozac was introduced, the U.S. experienced 50 mass murder incidents resulting in the deaths of 499 people. Clearly guns are the problem because no one in the U.S. owned any guns prior to 1987. (/sarcasm mode off).

    December 19, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  17. Dale

    Guns are not the problem; it is the culture our society.
    If you ban guns, also ban VIOLENT HATE RAP, radical punk and VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES that promotes killing, teenagers doing this OVER AND OVER BRAINWASHING or society, we have a programed society that is self-destructing.
    People with Brain Chemical Mental Problems they are being brainwashed by this listed above, they do not even realize they are being brainwashed and become desensitized from real life.
    Look at history and past shootings and their mental histories, they were all mentally impaired.
    These types of weapons have been around for 50 years, the last 20 years that this type of behavior has become a “” Violent Copycat Problem ”” WHY ?

    Lot of it has to do with “”News Talking Heads talking about the same thing over and over “”, saturating people with brain chemical imbalance gives them the wrong idea like the violent stuff listed above.

    Guns are not the problem; “” it is our dysfunctional family culture, Parents could not care less what their teenagers are doing, that must be fixed ””.

    December 19, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  18. John

    We have to ask ourselves, do the advantages (?) of assault weapon ownership combined with the 2nd amendment outweigh the disadvantages, which are
    ........criminals out gun the cops who are not allowed to use assault weapons in defense
    .......wacko's can get too many rounds off too fast to respond.....a citizen/teacher could not defend themselves with an assault weapon is too large to carry/conceal and just wouldn't be practical to be used as a defense by most people.
    .......absolutely unnecessary for hunting animals.
    Only response by the gun lobby I have heard is defending against terrorists on the street (?) and they like them!!!!

    December 19, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
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