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. AParent

    The world is in mourning and these kinds of poll results are the emotional reactions to the devastation that has just happened. Where is the poll about providing safe solutions and protective treatment for the "mentally ill" killers so they don't have the opportunity to kill with ANY weapon???

    December 19, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. tmc

    Wtih power, comes responsibility... or something like that.. the theme of the batman movie where the opening night got shot up too... anywho... how about a psychological profile and a sit-down with people who want these powerful weapons... you might wanna put up the question, do you have anyone mentally unstable in your household as one of the questions as well as a work-up profile of the applicants before handing over access to these weapons. A couple of people are likely to be able to tackle (or otherwise subdue, maybe with a stun-gun) a guy with two hand-guns.. not so easy with a semi-automatic high powered rifle that rips your guts out..

    Weapons are a REGULATED product in many ways like tobacco.. not banned, but not handed out to children easily either without legal consequences.. How many people need be killed before the law gets a proper revision for the 21st century?

    December 19, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. JPX

    "The guy in CT stole his guns. Can any geniuses at CNN please explain how gun laws will stop criminals who don't legally buy guns to begin with?" Darnell, he stole the assault rifle from his mother. If this gun had been banned she never would have owned it and she would not have had it in the house. That's the whole point, genius.

    December 19, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  4. Gurgyl

    gun-ban law is needed.

    December 19, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. nadinesh

    Bravo, Don in Albuquerque! I know several of them! And there sure is an awful lot of fantastical bluster going on! Kid stuff.

    December 19, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. Neil

    Seriously?!!? CNN, you polled all of 620 people and you consider this to be newsworthy?!!!!?

    December 19, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. Michael Lewis

    I've lived 5 years of my life in overseas locations where only the military & police are allowed to have guns. Period. South Korea and England. There are no instances of civilians being shot & killed ...... especially 6 yr old kids. Maybe we should follow suit ...... but, considering that guns have been a normal part of life here in America, it would probably cause a civil war.

    December 19, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Ron

    Like a ban on Guns would have a prayer of stopping gun crime. They currently have narcotic drugs listed as illegal... and they have barely slowed the flow of them into this country... they made alcohol illegal... we see how long that lasted. The numbers show the highest rates of gun crime are in the same municipalities where the tightest gun restrictions live...

    this is just politicians trying to take our rights away again with no ability to even make it work the way they intended... When you can stop drugs, then talk to me about guns. Until then, save it.

    December 19, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. RF

    There are an estimated 300 million guns in the hands of American citizens legally. The per capita gun ownership numbers are pretty flat over the 20 years since this lunatic murderer was born. What's changed? We have desensitized our children through violence on TV in the media/movies and games. Kids aren't kids anymore. The breakdown of family morality and personal parental responsibility is what's wrong. We make heroes of Tarantino for his artistic sense and push for more and more reality. This bloodlust is outrageous and the American people should be horrified by Hollywood. Instead, we are horrified by Smith & Wesson. Sad. My country breaks my heart.

    December 19, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. Kimberly

    When they ban cars and booze after a bad drunk driving offense, and ban Congress and rich people from having armed security for themselves and their families MAYBE I will consider their gun ban argument.

    December 19, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Jerry B

    I have an idea why don't we make it illegal to kill people? we could even make it illegal to take guns on school property... Oh wait we did that... hummm... maybe we should just do a better job of advertising the laws? obviously the criminals haven't heard about those laws or we wouldn't have a problem... If making a law against something actually kept people from preforming these terrible acts we would need no prisons. If a person intends to do something as horrible as this shooting & kill themselves in the end I don't think any law is going to stop them. Banning guns from the millions of sane law abiding people because someone goes crazy makes no sense at all. let's ban cars so drunks can't hurt anyone while we are at it!

    December 19, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. LOLZ CNN!

    Yea i believe this poll is accurate. Not like CNN is biased when it comes to this right??? SMDH

    December 19, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. nvmature

    Funny how Republicans only appreciate the polls they favor, the polls that make them feel better about being Republicans.

    December 19, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. Nathan

    52% after a mass shooting of kindergarteners? Seems kind of low actually. The same poll 3 weeks ago would be very different. Mass shootings have actually gone down in number since the early part of last century. We think they happen more frequently because we have terrible memories and because we hear about them more now via mass media. We could pursue massive gun control overhaul until we're blue in the face, but they will still happen.

    December 19, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. LOLZ CNN!

    cnn was quick to take this poll because it would show a result in the favor of their opinion...take it again in a month....but they won't do that

    December 19, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  16. nvmature

    @JYoung So now the problem is the poll. Sigh. You Republicans are impossible.

    December 19, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Txguy

    No reason someone needs to own a weapon that shoots of multiple rounds and used in wars. Handgun that is fine, ban the rest.

    December 19, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. Gary in Missouri

    I do not believe this poll. What was the question, how many was asked the question, where was the people living who answered the question. I can take a poll and get the answers I want too.

    December 19, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  19. Sheila

    We had all kinds of protection in place on September 10, 2001. But no one ever thought of using an airplane as a battering ram, so that's not something we had planned for. Only crazy people can anticipate the moves of other crazy people, and our law enforcement agencies generally frown on hiring them.

    December 19, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  20. BoBo

    1) I question the Majority Part.
    2) What does "Major" Mean.
    3) All this ignores the fact the guns in almost all of these shootings were stolen from perfectly sane gun owners.

    December 19, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  21. Don't spam my phone CNN

    Hey CNN, please do not send me a PUSH notification over a poll of only 620 Americans. Regardless of your view on gun control, a poll of this small magnitude whose results are still within the margin of error of the previous result is NOT breaking news.

    December 19, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  22. TexasMom

    My issue is...I just don't trust our President and his Administration. I actually do support regulating assult-type weapons but I fear if we give that that, they'll expand it greatly. I don't trust them to be "reasonable."

    December 19, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  23. Paul

    To ye who think "gun control" is going to do a bit of good.
    And before you dismiss me as a conservative nutjob, know that I voted for Obama both times. If anyone has had a miniscule amount of time behind a firearm knows they are not dangerous at all if used properly. Someone could just as easily go into a school armed with a ball ping hammer and chainsaw and obliterate the entire school. This is only going to create more victims, because as anyone with half a brain can tell you that inanimate objects are 100% incapable of acting without being put into use by a human being
    Sorry but this seems way to similar to 911 and the immediate signing of the "Patriot Act". People over reacting to a terrible situation and submitting legislature that in no way keeps us "safer" and only harms citizens. FWIW Police carry firearms to protect THEMSELVES not the population so good luck to you anti gunners if you are caught in a bad situation.

    December 19, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    don in albuquerque really trained? lol you have to really get out and go to a police academy and see it for yourself.

    December 19, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  25. KBlanchard

    I think that something needs to be done, however I think that the problem is not guns alone. We also need to do something about video games people play them and are desensitized to killing. I also think that Hollywood does the same thing. We really need to do something but it means changing more that gun laws and I wish that the government will see that !!

    December 19, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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