Two-thirds of voters support tougher gun control after Florida shooting massacre, poll says

Key Points
  • Support for tougher gun control rules is the highest the Quinnipiac University poll has ever found.
  • The survey follows the shooting massacre at a Florida high school last week in which 17 people died.
  • Nearly all American voters support universal background checks, while more than two-thirds of voters back an assault weapons ban.
Tyra Heman (R) a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, holds a sign that reads, 'Enough No Guns,' as she is hugged in front of the school where 17 people that were killed on February 14, on February 19, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.
Getty Images

American voters by a 2-to-1 margin favor tougher gun control rules following the massacre of 17 people at a Florida high school last week, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Sixty-six percent of voters support stricter gun laws, compared with 31 percent who do not, the Quinnipiac University poll found. Backing for tighter gun rules is higher than the polling institute has ever measured, and up from 47 percent as recently as December 2015.

Later Tuesday, Trump announced that he signed a memorandum recommending Attorney General Jeff Sessions ban so-called bump stocks or other devices that can make weapons automatic. A man who opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas last year, killing more than 50 people, used such a device. It is unclear whether the Justice Department will follow through on the action, or whether Congress plans to pass its own law banning the devices.

Gun laws could play a role in November's congressional elections. Republicans, who have often cautioned against new gun regulations after mass shootings, will try to hold their edge in both chambers of Congress.

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Democrats, who generally favor more restrictions on guns, will attempt to win majorities in both the House and Senate.

Generally popular policies such as universal background checks and an assault weapons ban have failed to pass the GOP-controlled Congress following a string of mass shootings in recent years. It is unclear whether bipartisan lawmakers will push this year to approve those rules, even as public support for them grows.

  • Ninety-seven percent of voters back universal background checks, versus only 2 percent who do not, according to the Quinnipiac poll. The percentage of voters supporting the policy rose from 95 percent in December.
  • Sixty-seven percent of voters support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, versus 29 percent who oppose it, the survey found. In November, 65 percent of voters backed an assault weapons ban. Multiple mass shooters in recent years have used semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15.
  • In addition, 67 percent of respondents said it was too easy to buy a gun in the U.S., the poll said. Three percent responded that it was too difficult, while 25 percent said the difficulty of getting a gun is about right.

The nationwide telephone poll surveyed 1,249 voters from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

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After the shooting, President Donald Trump said he wanted to improve mental health care and school security, but did not mention any possible changes to gun laws. In a statement Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders then said Trump would be open to a narrow bill to improve background checks. She stopped short of endorsing the legislation put forth last year by a group of bipartisan senators.

Asked Tuesday if Trump would support an assault weapons ban, Sanders told reporters that "we haven't closed the door on any front."

One of the background check bill's proponents, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, tweeted Monday that Trump's stance "is another sign the politics of gun violence are shifting rapidly." But he added that "no one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic."

Murphy tweet

Trump plans to hold a listening session about gun violence with high school students on Wednesday. He will then speak to state and local officials about possible solutions.

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