WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans were faced on Friday with another deadly school shooting, this time in Santa Fe, Texas, where at least 10 people are reported dead. As the pace of major school and other mass shootings has picked up in recent years, so too has public support for tougher gun control legislation.
Americans' support for tougher gun laws hit a 25-year high in March. In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in a March Gallup poll, 67% of Americans indicated their support for tougher restrictions on guns. This was the highest level of support for more stringent gun laws in the U.S. since 1993. Americans' support for tougher gun laws has generally trended up since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and has now returned to levels last seen prior to 2000.
There is a stark partisan divide in support for gun control. As with many other issues, Republicans and Democrats are strongly divided on the issue of tough gun laws. Roughly four in 10 Republicans say they favor tougher regulations on guns, compared with nine in 10 Democrats.
Despite their majority support for tougher gun laws, Americans are skeptical they would curb mass shootings. Slightly more than four in 10 Americans last October said they believed tougher gun laws would reduce mass shootings "a great deal" (21%) or "a moderate amount" (20%). Again, there was a partisan divide, with 63% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans saying tougher gun laws would reduce mass shootings.
Americans' top-of-mind concern about gun violence tends to peak after a shooting but fades quickly. Although increased support for tougher gun control seems to be sticking, Americans' top-of-mind concern about the problem tends to flare immediately after a major shooting, and then fade. In March, following the Parkland shooting, a record 13% of Americans identified guns or gun control as the most important problem facing the country. However, in the latest poll, conducted May 1-10, prior to the Santa Fe shooting, the percentage of Americans citing guns or gun violence as the country's top problem had fallen again to 3%. A similar pattern has been observed following other school or mass shootings. Gallup's next most important problem update will be in early June.
A clear majority of Americans support tougher gun control legislation even though they have doubts about how effective it may be in curbing mass shootings. Americans' concern about guns and gun control increased after the Parkland shooting, and for a short time it appeared their support for tougher restrictions on guns would translate into legislation. However, on the Federal level this did not happen, and Americans' identification of gun control as the nation's top problem faded in the months following the shooting.