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Poll finds plummeting support for national assault weapon ban

John Woolfolk, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

Despite outrage over a cycle of deadly mass shootings in California and other states, a new poll out Monday has found plummeting support for a national assault weapon ban, reflecting what even backers say may be growing pessimism over whether such a law would reduce violence.

President Joe Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom have called for a ban, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a new ban bill last month, similar to one Congress allowed to expire after 10 years in 2004. California has banned the sale of assault weapons since 1989, but it is under legal challenge.

“While Biden has undertaken a new push to ban assault weapons, public views on the issue are now closely divided,” said Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates, which produced the survey for ABC News. Asked their opinion regarding the proposed legislation, 51% of respondents said they were opposed and 47% were in support.

Langer Research has asked about an assault weapon ban 22 times in 13 years starting in 1995, and noted that in most other polls, majorities have supported such a measure, peaking at 79% in May 1999. Support was at 62% as recently as April 2018 but fell to 56%, with 41% opposed, in September 2019, the last time the firm asked.

Langer said the decline in support since 2019 is broadly based across groups, but that it “would take a study focused in more detail on the issue to assess its reasons.” Monday’s poll covered a variety of topics including the national debt and the popularity of the nation’s elected leaders.

Langer said the findings don’t appear to be an outlier — a Quinnipiac University poll in July 2022 found 49% in support of a national assault weapon sale ban and 45% opposed, though Feinstein’s office noted a Jan. 27-29 Morning Consult/Politico poll that found 65% support banning assault weapons and 67% support banning large-capacity ammunition magazines.


But Langer did say that other polls suggest reasons for flagging support. The Quinnipiac University poll also found 52% of Americans do not worry about being the victim of a mass shooting, while 47% percent do.

A Pew Research Center poll last year also found the public divided on whether making it harder to get guns would reduce mass shootings, Langer said. Another Pew study among parents of children under 18 found just 45% of the parents thought an assault weapons ban would be extremely or very effective at preventing shootings in schools.

Asked about the findings, Ruth Borenstein, legislative and policy chair for Brady California, which supports the national ban, said “it’s hard to know, but I suspect it’s due to efforts to normalize these weapons of war.”

“We have members of Congress wearing assault weapon pins on their lapels,” Borenstein said. “Plus, tragically, now that mass shootings are a daily occurrence, I think many people see them as inevitable.”


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