(NEW YORK) — While Senate negotiators struggle for a deal on mandatory background checks at gun shows, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds vast public support for the measure, as well as for a committee-approved step to make illegal gun sales a federal crime.
A smaller majority — 57 percent — also continues to favor banning assault weapons, a measure said to be less likely to prevail in Congress. Support has declined slightly for a fourth proposal: the National Rifle Association’s suggestion to place armed guards in public schools.
With a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for Tuesday, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, also shows a sharp political divide on gun control: Americans split evenly, 42-41 percent, on whom they trust more to handle the issue, President Obama, who’s been pushing such measures, or the Republicans in Congress, many of whom have been resisting them.
That result reflects the crosscurrents in attitudes on gun control. On one hand the public supports “stricter gun control laws in this country” in general by a fairly narrow 52 to 45 percent, essentially unchanged recently and down from its levels in most of the previous two decades. But support is higher on some specifics; a nearly unanimous 91 percent favor mandatory background checks on gun show sales, and 82 percent support making illegal gun sales a federal crime. Notably, even among opponents of stricter gun control in general, 85 and 73 percent, respectively, support these measures.
The Judiciary Committee last week approved a bill making gun trafficking a federal offense. It’s also looking at background checks, limits on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and aid for more safety equipment in schools. All come in response to the shootings that killed 26 at a schoolhouse in Newtown, Conn., in December.
Support for banning assault weapons is almost identical to its level in January, albeit, like views on gun control in general, down from support in the past, which peaked at or near 80 percent in the 1990s. Placing an armed guard in every public school, supported by 55 percent in January, slipped to 50 percent now. Critics have focused on the cost, among other issues; support is down most sharply among Republicans, men and people in gun-owning households.
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Eric Bradner, CNN
Laura Koran, Dan Merica and Tom LoBianco, CNN
Frank Pallotta, CNN