Public Continues to Oppose Banning Handgun Sales
As the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns, a majority of Americans (59%) say they would oppose a law that banned the sale of handguns.
Opposition to a prohibition of handgun sales is up slightly, from 55% a year ago shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings, but it represents a more substantial increase from the 1990s, when roughly half of Americans opposed a ban on handguns.
The latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted April 23-27 among 1,502 Americans, finds that public attitudes about gun control also have shown little change in recent years.
Despite the public's opposition to a ban on handgun sales, most Americans continue to say that in general it is more important to control gun ownership than to protect the rights of gun owners. Roughly six-in-ten (58%) say it is more important to control gun ownership while 37% say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns.
Public attitudes about gun control and a handgun ban are divided along political, gender and racial lines. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans (73%) oppose a ban on handgun sales, a view shared by 59% of independents and just half of Democrats. Democrats differ over a law to ban handgun sales. A majority of the party's conservatives and moderates (53%) oppose such a ban; among liberal Democrats, 43% are opposed while half favor a ban on handgun sales.
Opposition to a prohibition on handgun sales is greater among men than women (65% vs. 53%), and among whites than blacks (61% vs. 49%). In addition, though majorities of urban, suburban and rural residents oppose a handgun ban, more rural residents than urban residents oppose a ban. Southerners are more likely to oppose a handgun ban than are Northeasterners or Midwesterners.
Reflecting the partisan differences in views of a ban on handgun sales, 63% of those who favor a ban on handgun sales support Barack Obama in a general election matchup against John McCain; a comparable proportion back Hillary Clinton against McCain (62%). Most Americans who oppose such a ban support McCain in matchups with both Democrats (54% against Obama and 55% against Clinton). In the Democratic primary, supporters of a handgun ban are evenly divided between Obama and Clinton; 47% say they prefer Obama while 43% favor Clinton.