- 52% of Americans want stricter gun laws, lowest since 2014
- Independents' support for stricter gun laws down 15 points since 2020
- Record-low 19% favor handgun ban in U.S., down from 25% last year
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' support for stricter gun control has fallen five percentage points to 52%, the lowest reading since 2014. At the same time, 35% of U.S. adults think laws covering the sale of firearms should be kept as they are now and 11% favor less strict laws.
Line graph. Percentages of Americans since 1990 who want the laws covering the sale of firearms to be more strict, less strict or kept as they are now. The latest data find a five-point decline in the percentage of U.S. adults (to 52%) who want stricter laws, 11% who want them kept as they are and 35% less strict. The percentage of Americans who want stricter gun laws is the lowest since 2014. The highest percentage for those supporting stricter laws was 78% in 1990.
Gallup has been tracking the public's views on this measure since 1990, when the nation's crime rate was high and a record 78% of Americans supported stricter laws for gun sales. Since then, calls for tougher gun control have generally spiked in the wake of prominent mass shootings and faded as the memory of each receded. As recently as three years ago, after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, support for increased gun control rose to 67%, the highest point since 1993. It remained elevated until it began to fall last year. The latest decline in support for stricter gun laws, from an Oct. 1-19 Gallup poll, follows a seven-point drop last year.
The decline in support for stricter gun laws last year was mostly due to a 14-point drop among Republicans, to 22% -- the group's lowest point on record. This year's decrease is driven by a 15-point plunge among independents. For their part, Democrats' desire for more restrictive gun laws ticked up to 91%.
Line graph. Percentages of Republicans, Democrats and independents who want the laws covering the sale of firearms to be more strict, since 2001. The latest data find a new 91% high of Democrats, 45% of independents and 24% of Republicans want stricter laws. Independents' desire for stricter gun laws has fallen 15 points since one year ago while Democrats' is up six points and Republicans is essentially unchanged compared to last year's 22%.
While Democrats are nearly unanimous in their support for stricter gun laws, Republicans' and independents' preferences are not as clear-cut. A 56% majority of Republicans favor keeping laws for the sale of firearms as they are now, while the remainder divide about evenly between wanting stricter (24%) and less strict (20%) laws. Independents are mostly divided between saying they prefer stricter laws (45%) and wanting laws kept as they are (41%). Twelve percent of independents favor less strict laws.
|More strict||Less strict||Kept as they are|
|Oct. 1-19, 2021|
Support for Handgun Ban at Record-Lowest Point
Gallup has measured public support for a complete ban on handguns in the U.S. for all but the police and other authorized persons since 1980, and before that asked a similar question about "a law which would forbid the possession" of "pistols and revolvers." Support for banning citizens' ownership of handguns peaked at 60%, the initial measure, in 1959. After that first reading, it never rose to the majority level and has been below 30% since 2008. Today's 19% favoring such a ban is the all-time low, and down six points in the past year.
Line graph. Percentage of Americans who think there should be a ban on the possession of handguns except by the police and other authorized persons, since 1980. The latest finding, 19%, is the lowest on record and a six-point decline since last year.
As is the case with Americans' preference for gun laws in general, the latest drop in support for a handgun ban is largely attributable to political independents. Currently, 14% of independents think there should be a ban on handguns, which marks a 16-point decline since 2019, including nine points since 2020. Even fewer Republicans, 6%, favor such a ban, while 40% of Democrats do -- figures consistent with recent support among each party group.
Line graph. Percentage of Republicans, Democrats and independents who think there should be a ban on the possession of handguns except by the police and other authorized persons, since 2001. Currently, 6% of Republicans, 40% of Democrats and 14% of independents favor such a ban. The Republican and independent readings are at their lowest points on record.
Americans' support for stricter gun laws has typically risen in the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings and fallen during periods without such events. Changes in the party occupying the White House may also influence preferences for gun laws. Generally, the public favors stricter laws when Republicans are in office and less strict laws when Democrats are.
At the same time, support for banning handguns seems less affected by current events. It began to decline after the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993, which was strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association.
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