If there’s been a notable shift in Washington’s rhetoric about gun control since Newtown, public opinion has moved only modestly.
Following the shooting of 20 children and six educators at a primary school in Connecticut last week, American opinion about guns breaks s little differently in the Pew Research Center’s surveys: 49 percent say it’s more important to control gun ownership, while 42 percent say it’s more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.
This is the first time since President Barack Obama took office that more Americans prioritize gun control than the right to own guns, according to Pew President Andrew Kohut. “However,” Kohut notes, “support for gun control remains lower than before Obama took office. In April 2008, 58 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership; just 37 percent prioritized protecting gun rights.
Following a shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater last summer, 47 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership, while 46 percent said it was more important to protect gun rights.
Opinion is divided over whether to ban semi-automatic guns – 44 percent favor such a ban, Pew has found, while 49 percent oppose it. Far more favor banning bullets designed to explode or penetrate bullet-proof vests (56 percent) and high capacity ammunition clips (53 percent). A ban on all handguns is widely opposed: 67 percent oppose it.
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism also has found in the social networking media “far more discussion of gun policy following this event than after the 2011 Tucson shooting” of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. “In the social media conversation, calls for stricter gun control measures exceed defenses of current gun laws by more than two-to-one. <> Dec. 20, 2012.