Percentage of Americans Wanting Looser Gun Laws Triples in 2014

Overall dissatisfaction with gun laws hit its highest level since 2001, but the rise came largely from those clamoring for more Second Amendment freedoms.

 Guns seized by the New York Police Department (NYPD), in the largest seizure of illegal guns in the city's history, are displayed on a table during a press conference on August 19, 2013 in New York City.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 30, 2014, 11:18 a.m.

Fifty-five percent of Americans reported in a new Gallup poll that they are dissatisfied overall with American gun laws and policies, an increase from 51 percent in 2013 and just 42 percent in 2012.

But the most dramatic rise in dissatisfaction comes from the contingency of Americans who feel gun laws are too strict, rather than from those who think they aren’t strict enough. This percentage jumped to 16 percent this year, a rate that more than triples the 5 percent recorded by Gallup last year. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans favoring stricter gun laws fell seven points in 2014, from 38 to 31 percent.

The enormous growth of the gun-freedom caucus could in part be attributable to heavy lobbying efforts last year by the National Rifle Association and others. Sensing a groundswell of support for firearm restrictions in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., gun-rights groups reported lobbying to the tune of $12.2 million in 2013, according to data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation.

Gun-control groups spent five times as much on federal lobbying in 2013 as they did the year before, but the NRA and others still outpaced them by more than 7-to-1.

Catherine Mortensen, a spokeswoman for the NRA, said the poll results were not surprising. She said the boost in those wanting lighter restrictions came even despite heavy investment from gun-control groups on advertising last year. In direct contrast to federal lobbying, control groups outspent the NRA and others by a 7-to-1 margin ($14.1 million to $1.9 million) on advertising in 2013, according to data collected by Kantar Media.

“Billionaire gun control zealots such as Michael Bloomberg outspent us exponentially last year,” she said in a statement. “However, their efforts failed to resonate with a majority of Americans that gun control laws are necessary. In fact, as Gallup shows, it has been counterproductive.”

President Obama again called for tighter gun restrictions in his State of the Union address earlier this week, echoing the emotional plea he made in his address to Congress a year earlier after the tragedy wrought in Newtown. Consistent with the overall theme of his speech, Obama suggested he intends to tighten gun laws even if Congress doesn’t send any gun legislation to his desk.

“Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day,” the president said Tuesday. “I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say, ‘We are not afraid,’ and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.”

The Senate failed last spring to pass legislation that would have expanded background checks, and the issue is widely viewed as a political nonstarter once again in Congress. Gun-control advocates did see some success last year in a few state houses, particularly in Colorado and Connecticut, but lawmakers choosing to support such legislation frequently face politically fatal backlash from the gun lobby.

Gallup’s telephone interviews were conducted from Jan. 5-8 among a random sample of 1,018 adults. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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