NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre pauses during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shootings on Dec. 21.
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- A majority of Americans support stricter gun laws in
the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., 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.
Fifty-eight 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 60%-35% in 2011, now is split on the
issue, with 46% favoring enforcing current laws and 47% favoring passing
In terms of specific laws, however, the ban on assault
weapons, which is 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 53% 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
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.
Police say Adam
Lanza shot and killed his mother on Dec. 14 before driving to Sandy Hook
Elementary School where he killed 26 schoolchildren and then shot
Other 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
Proponents of outlawing high-capacity gun magazines
note that as many as a half-dozen kids escaped from Sandy Hook 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.