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
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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