- 42% are satisfied with the nation's gun laws, 56% dissatisfied
- 69% of Republicans/leaners, 22% of Democrats/leaners satisfied with gun laws
- 68% of Democrats/leaners want gun laws to be stricter
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty-six percent of Americans say they are dissatisfied with U.S. gun laws and policies, marking the ninth consecutive year of majority-level dissatisfaction since the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. At the same time, 42% of U.S. adults express satisfaction with U.S. gun laws.
Line graph. Americans' satisfaction with the United States' laws or policies on guns, trend since 2001. Currently, 56% of U.S. adults are very or somewhat dissatisfied and 42% are very or somewhat satisfied. The high point in dissatisfaction was 62% in 2016, and the high point in satisfaction was 51% in 2004 and 2005.
Gallup has asked Americans about their satisfaction with specific issues, including the nation's gun laws and policies, each January since 2001, except for 2009-2011. In 2001, 38% of the public was satisfied with U.S. gun laws. Satisfaction rose in subsequent surveys, hovering near 50% from 2002 through 2012, but since then, it has generally held near 40%. The highest dissatisfaction, 62%, was recorded one month after the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
The latest findings are from a Jan. 4-15 Gallup poll that preceded President Joe Biden's Feb. 14 call for "commonsense gun law reforms" on the third anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. His proposed changes include background checks on all gun sales, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and more accountability for gun manufacturers.
Striking Partisan Differences on Gun Policy
Biden's desired stricter gun measures are very similar to those that Congress failed to pass after the Newtown mass shooting, when Biden was serving as Barack Obama's vice president. That vote in Congress laid bare Republican lawmakers' unwillingness to support new gun restrictions. Since then, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have generally become increasingly likely to express satisfaction with U.S. gun laws, while Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have become less likely to be satisfied. Two exceptions to this occurred in 2014 and 2016, when Republicans' satisfaction fell amid calls for stricter gun laws.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are now more than three times as likely as Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to say they are satisfied with the nation's gun laws and policy, 69% vs. 22%. This 47-percentage-point gap in satisfaction is in line with those since 2018. Before that, the average party gap was 22 points.
Line graph. Partisans' satisfaction with the nation's laws or policies on guns, trend since 2001. Currently, 69% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are very or somewhat satisfied and 22% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are very or somewhat satisfied.
Dissatisfaction With Gun Laws Rooted More in Call for Stricter Regulation
A follow-up question, asked only of those who said they were dissatisfied with current gun laws, explored what respondents would like to see happen to those laws. Given that dissatisfaction with gun laws is primarily seen among Democrats, it follows that people who are dissatisfied prefer stricter rather than more lenient laws.
As Biden calls for stricter gun laws, 41% of the public is dissatisfied with current gun laws and wants them made stricter; 8% are dissatisfied and want them to be made less strict; and 7% are dissatisfied but want them to remain the same.
Line graph. Americans' satisfaction with and preference for gun laws. Currently, 42% of Americans are satisfied, 41% are dissatisfied and want stricter laws, and 8% are dissatisfied and want less strict laws.
While 69% of Republicans say they are satisfied with U.S. gun laws, 68% of Democrats are dissatisfied and want them to be stricter.
Americans continue to express more dissatisfaction than satisfaction with U.S. gun laws, and partisans remain sharply divided in their views. The public's calls for more gun control have tended to be in reaction to mass shootings, as have lawmakers' attempts to pass stricter gun laws.
After the nation's deadliest mass shooting, in Las Vegas in 2017, the Trump administration banned bump stocks, which make semi-automatic rifles able to fire like machine guns. Trump also indicated that he was open to stricter gun laws after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, but he never took action on that. Likewise, Trump said in 2019 that he would look into changing background checks in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, but ultimately he declined to push for any changes.
The latest proposal from Biden, however, comes when the U.S. has not seen a mass shooting in recent months. Biden has worked to make the nation's gun laws and policies stricter since he was a U.S. senator and helped pass the Brady bill and the now-expired assault weapons ban. However, he faces an uphill battle in trying to get a bipartisan deal now, given the nation's current political divide and the availability of the legislative filibuster.
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