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Gallup: Support for stricter gun control laws lowest since 2016

Row of handguns. (US Coast Guard Academy/Released)
November 16, 2020

Support for stricter gun control laws has fallen to its lowest level since 2016, according to the latest Gallup poll.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread civil unrest, Americans are less likely to call for increased gun control than they were four years ago. Gallup found that 57 percent of those polled in the United States who call for stricter laws on the sale of firearms dropped by seven points since last year. Meanwhile, 34 percent of American adults prefer that gun laws remain the same and 9 percent want them to be less strict.

Most women, Democrats, independents, those who do not own guns, residents of the Eastern and Western U.S., and city and suburban residents all support stricter gun laws. These groups’ opposites are more supportive of keeping gun laws the same or making them less strict.

“Among these groups, the largest gap in support for more stringent gun laws is for partisans,” the poll results stated. “The current 22% of Republicans favoring stricter laws for gun sales is the lowest for the group over the past 20 years and represents a 14-point drop since 2019. Meanwhile, the percentages of Democrats and independents calling for more gun control are near the highest recorded by Gallup since 2000. The 63-point gap between Republicans and Democrats is the highest on record over the past two decades.

The poll also found that 25 percent of Americans favor a handgun ban in the U.S., an almost record low.

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Since Gallup started tracking the public’s views on gun control in 1990, the record-high was 78 percent of U.S. adults supporting stricter gun control. Most Americans maintained that position until 2008. By 2011, support had fallen to a low of 43 percent.

Following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, support for stricter gun laws spiked to 58 percent.

However, polling data may be skewed due to the undersampling of gun owners and pro-Second Amendment participants who may be unwilling to tell pollsters the truth.

The NRA-ILA recently noted that according to Economist John Lott, numerous Americans “refuse to answer or do not answer truthfully” when questioned about owning a firearm.

“Current events influence people’s willingness to acknowledge gun ownership. After mass shootings, a sudden drop can be seen in the polling numbers,” Lott said.

David Yamane, a Wake Forest Professor of Sociology, shared Lott’s belief that polling “systematically underestimates gun ownership in the U.S.”

“My educated guess is that the underestimate is at least 10%, that 25% would not be an unreasonable amount, and more than 25% is likely,” Yamane said.

“In a year that has seen record-high gun sales, Americans’ appetite for gun control is the lowest it has been since 2016, before mass shootings in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Parkland, Florida,” the poll stated. “There has not been a major mass shooting in the U.S. since mid-2019 — which may explain the decline in support for stricter gun laws.”