The last time there were calls for a federal “assault weapons” ban, it was the early 90s and there was a Clinton in the Oval Office. Now, as another Clinton strives for the same seat, the topic is one of major concern just eight days before the election.
Back in 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, popularly known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, Gallup found that a solid majority of Americans favored the action. By the time the 10-year ban was allowed to expire under President George W. Bush in 2004, Americans were evenly divided on the subject. By 2011, public opinion had leaned against an assault weapon ban, with 53 percent opposed and 43 percent in favor.
Now, in Gallup’s 2016 Crime poll conducted from October 5 – 9, opposition now exceeds support for such a ban by 25 percent—that’s 61 percent to 36 percent.
“In the past 20 years, support for an assault weapons ban has fallen among all partisan groups, but more so among Republicans than Democrats. Currently, 50% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans favor a ban; in 1996, 63% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans did so. The partisan gap in support has doubled, from 13 points in 1996 to 25 points today.”
Independents are also less inclined to back an assault weapon ban, with only 31 percent in favor.
And it’s not just “gun people” who don’t want a ban on a federal level. The Gallup results show a support for a ban has declined among both those with and those without a gun in the home.
“In 2004, 55% of those in non-gun households supported a ban; this year, 45% do. Likewise, while those with a gun in the home have never favored a ban on assault weapons, support is now at an all-time low of 26%,” the story says.
In fact, the results say Americans are less likely to favor tougher gun laws in general. The decline for support for an assault weapon ban mirrors is similar to a decline in people saying the support a handgun ban. Currently, just 23 percent of American favor a handgun ban, down from 36 percent in 2004.
At the same time, though, 55 percent of Americans say laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, with 10 percent saying the laws should be less strict and 34 percent saying they should be kept as they are.
The percentage favoring stricter gun laws has fluctuated between 43 percent and 60 percent since 2004, but it’s certainly far down from it’s peak levels in the 1990s, with a high of 78 percent in 1990.
Gallup suggests that what we’re seeing is a reaction against the media and politicians demonizing certain firearms and attempting to blame them for mass shootings.
“It is possible this represents a backlash against calls by some in the national media and the federal government to ban certain weapons after mass shootings occur. This backlash may reflect growing apprehension that the government may infringe upon particular civil and personal liberties. Gallup finds even lower levels of support for other potential bans, such as those on handguns and cigarettes.
“It is striking — and unusual — that fewer Democrats than ever support an assault weapons ban, since the Democratic Party has been instrumental in pushing for stricter gun laws.
“However, it is worth noting that a majority of Americans still believe there should be stricter laws governing the sale of firearms, even as they are reluctant to endorse a ban on handguns and assault weapons. In general, a majority of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the nation’s gun laws, furthering the complexity of this issue.”