NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre pauses during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shootings on Dec. 21.(Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)
WASHINGTON -- A majority of Americans support stricter gun laws in
the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, but most oppose banning
assault weapons, a move that is backed by President Obama as a step to
curb gun violence, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.
percent of Americans now say they favor stricter gun laws, up from 43%
in October 2011. And the American public, which favored enforcing
existing gun laws over passing new ones by a 60%-35% in 2011, now is
split on the issue, with 46% favoring enforcing current laws and 47%
favoring passing new ones.
In terms of specific laws, however, the
ban on assault weapons, which are a favorite target of gun control
advocates - including Obama -- hasn't gained any significant support,
according to the poll. Forty-four percent support such a move and 51%
are against it. In October 2011, 43% supported an assault weapons ban
and 51% said they were against it.
Obama, who has convened a task
force led by Vice President Biden charged with coming up with a set of
proposals to help curb the scourge of gun violence, said last week that
"an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to get his hands on a
military-style assault rifle so easily."
Congress instituted a ban
on assault weapons in 1994, but the law lapsed in 2004. Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, D-Calif., has said that she will introduce legislation to
reinstate the ban when Congress reconvenes next year, but National Rifle
Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has called it a
"phony piece of legislation."
The NRA, the nation's most powerful
gun rights organization, has called for the federal government to put
armed guards on duty in every school in the aftermath of the Newtown
shooting and has flatly rejected any calls for tougher gun laws.
laws backed by Obama and gun control advocates score much more
favorably with the public: A near-unanimous 92% support background
checks for buyers at gun shows, and 62% favor bans on high-capacity
magazines, which can carry as many 30 rounds of ammunition.
say Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother on Dec. 14 before driving to
Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed 26 schoolchildren and
teachers and then shot himself.
Proponents of outlawing
high-capacity gun magazines note that as many as a half-dozen kids
escaped from the school when Lanza paused either to reload or because
his gun jammed, and they suggest the death toll could have fewer than 26
if the gunman's clip held fewer rounds.
Opponents of such a ban say they don't think it would have any effect.
"Changing a magazine, I can do that pretty quick," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told NBC's Meet the Press on
Sunday. "The best way to interrupt a shooter is to keep them out of the
school, and if they get in the school have somebody that can interrupt
them through armed force."
The USA TODAY/Gallup poll found 54%
have a favorable opinion of the NRA, down six points from 2005, but
generally in line with a series of polls done from 1993-2000.