Published January 18, 2013
Nearly twice as many voters say there would be less violent crime if more law-abiding Americans owned guns, than if guns were banned.
In addition, while American voters generally favor strengthening gun laws, 71 percent do not think tougher laws can stop shootings like the one last month in Newtown, Connecticut. Some 22 percent say new laws can prevent the next Sandy Hook.
These are just some of the findings from a Fox News poll released Friday.
Majorities of gun owners (81 percent), non-gun owners (58 percent), Democrats (58 percent), independents (72 percent) and Republicans (85 percent) say the people who do these kinds of things “will always find the guns” to commit violent acts.
The Fox News poll asked a similar question after previous shootings and the one-in-five believing that tougher laws could make a difference has mostly held steady.
After the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, 19 percent of voters felt stricter laws could help. That went to 21 percent after the Tucson shooting involving Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (2011) and 22 percent in the new poll.
Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown. Police identified two of the guns the shooter used as semiautomatic weapons, including one commercial model of the military M-16 rifle.
On Wednesday President Obama announced several gun-control proposals. Among them: requiring background checks for all gun buyers and banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The poll asked about these as well as other possible ways to reduce gun violence. (A portion of the interviews were conducted before Obama’s formal announcement.)
The most popular suggestions are requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers (with 91 percent favoring this proposal), providing services for mentally ill people who “show violent tendencies” (89 percent) and improving enforcement of existing laws (86 percent)
Large majorities also favor mandating mental-health checks on gun buyers (83 percent) and requiring criminal background checks on anyone buying ammunition (80 percent).
Smaller majorities favor putting armed guards in schools (60 percent), banning high-capacity clips (56 percent), banning assault weapons (54 percent), and reducing “access to violent movies and video games” (52 percent).
The least popular suggestion tested -- and the only one a majority opposes -- is allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds (42 percent favor, 52 percent oppose).
While large majorities of all demographic groups favor universal background checks, there are wide differences on other proposals. For example, on the bid to ban assault weapons, women favor it by a margin of 26 percentage points, while men oppose it by 4 points.
Democrats favor banning assault weapons by a 49-point margin, while Republicans oppose it by a 32-point margin. Gun owners oppose banning assault weapons by a 14-point margin, while non-gun owners favor it by 44 points. It is worth noting Republicans (65 percent) are much more likely than Democrats (38 percent) to be gun owners.
Most voters believe action will be taken on gun laws this year. They think gun legislation is much more likely to get passed (77 percent) than, for instance, immigration reform (48 percent), which is something Obama has said is a second-term priority.
Overall, voters are about twice as likely to say there would be less violent crime in the U.S. if more law-abiding people had guns, than if guns were banned (58 percent to 28 percent).
And by an 11 percentage-point margin, voters consider protecting the constitutional right to own a gun more important than protecting citizens from gun violence (51-40 percent).
Meanwhile, by an extremely wide 50-point margin, voters think gun permit holders have the right to keep that information private. A New York newspaper, not far from where the Newtown shooting took place, published the names and addresses of individuals with gun permits in its area. Voters have mixed feelings over who was more at risk after the information was published -- those living in homes listed as having a gun (35 percent) or those not having a gun (45 percent). Another 12 percent said both were equally at risk.
In response to the post-Newtown push for new gun restrictions, the National Rifle Association suggested putting armed guards in schools and rejected most other proposals.
A 56-percent majority of voters have a favorable opinion of the NRA, up significantly from 43 percent in March 2000. The number having a positive opinion of the group roughly matches the number of voters who have a gun in their home.
The NRA’s favorable rating among gun-owning households is 71 percent, while among non-gun households it is 38 percent.
Finally, the 52 percent of voters saying someone in their household owns a gun is up from 45 percent in January 2011, and is the highest level of stated gun ownership in a Fox poll. Interviews conducted from 1999 through 2011 found between 42 and 50 percent of voters reported having a gun in their home.
If guns were outlawed, nearly two-thirds of gun-owners say they would defy the government and keep their guns (65 percent).
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,008 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from January 15 to January 17. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.