NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Recognizes The Limits Of Gun Control

August 27, 1999

Contrary to media reports, a growing number of Americans actually doubt new gun laws will reduce crime. For instance, Time's Roger Rosenblatt asserted that people in the U.S. are finally ready to ban guns in response to recent public shootings. However, polls show the number of Americans who favor stricter gun laws has fallen substantially in the last few years. For instance:

  • A Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll found that in June 1999 only 62 percent of Americans favored stricter gun laws, compared to 78 percent 1990.
  • And the percentage of people who said they would not consider gun control a major issue when voting actually increased from 19 percent to 21.
  • A Gallup Poll found that the percentage of people who believe the government should ban civilian handgun possession has fallen from 41 percent in 1981 to 38 percent in 1999.

On Monday August 16, 1999 CBS reported its polls showed that:

  • Only 14 percent of people polled believe that gun control can prevent violence with guns.
  • Some 56 percent believe that better enforcement of existing laws would be more effective than additional gun laws.
  • Only 4 percent of those polled said gun control should be a top issue for the government.

These polls suggest that journalists often ignore the public's views. This might be why polls show that more people have a favorable impression of the National Rifle Association (e.g., ABC News/Washington Post, 48 percent; Gallup Poll, 51 percent) than trust or have confidence in journalists (e.g., Gallup/CNN/USA Today, 22 percent; Harris Poll, 15 percent).

Source: H. Sterling Burnett and Nicole Schiereck (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Polls on Guns," Time, August 30, 1999; and National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, "Asking the Right Questions," Fax Alert, Vol. 6, August 20, 1999.


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