Most Americans do not support an assault weapons ban, even in the wake of the recent Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.
According to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday, 51 percent of those surveyed between December 19 and 22 were against an assault weapons ban. Only 44 percent were in favor.
The numbers in favor of and against an assault weapons ban have not changed significantly from a late 2011 poll that found that 53 percent of respondents opposed a ban while 43 percent supported it.
While the Newtown shooting doesn't seem to have sparked significant changes in feeling about an assault weapons ban, support for stricter gun control measures in general is up by double digits. About 43 percent of respondents in a late 2011 poll said gun laws should be made more strict. That number is now 58 percent. Support for new gun legislation is at 47 percent, compared with 35 percent support in October 2011.
The poll also shows overwhelming support – 92 percent – for a law that would require background checks before people, including gun dealers, could buy guns at gun shows. While licensed dealers are required to run background checks, not everyone who sells a gun is required to be a licensed dealer, and unlicensed dealers are not required to run background checks.
A majority also support banning high-capacity ammunition clips that allow a shooter to fire more than ten bullets without stopping to reload. Nearly three-quarters of those polled also support a ban on handguns except by the police and other authorized personnel.
President Barack Obama favors an assault weapons ban as a step toward reducing gun violence. There was a ban in place beginning in 1994, but it ended in 2004. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has said she will reintroduce a bill to reinstate the ban next year, but the powerful National Rifle Association has criticized the idea. Obama has charged Vice President Joe Biden with leading an effort to develop new gun control and mental health policies in the new year.
The poll was conducted between December 19 and 22, and is based on more than 1,000 telephone interviews. The margin of error was plus and minus four percent.