Gun Poll: Most Americans Want To See Congress Pass Gun Restrictions Democrats and Republicans agree that Congress should tighten gun laws by passing universal background checks and red flag laws and require gun licenses as well as increase funding for mental health.
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Poll: Most Americans Want To See Congress Pass Gun Restrictions

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Poll: Most Americans Want To See Congress Pass Gun Restrictions

Poll: Most Americans Want To See Congress Pass Gun Restrictions

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Most Americans agree Congress should do something to try to end gun violence. There is wide support for a range of ideas, including keeping tabs on or limiting who can get a gun and making it easier for police and family members to temporarily take guns away from people who may hurt themselves or others - what's known as red flag laws. There's more division on other proposals. We all - we know all of this because of a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro has dug into the numbers. He joins us now. Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK. So I want to start where there is some agreement. Let's just start positive for now. What does this poll tell us?

MONTANARO: Well, look. There is a lot of agreement. I mean, we should start right off and say Democrats, Republicans and even gun owners all say that they want Congress to pass legislation to address four things, OK? They want to see an increase in funding for screenings and treatment of mental health.

CHANG: OK.

MONTANARO: They're in favor of background checks. They want licensing for all gun purchases, and they're in favor of a national red flag law.

CHANG: All right. So I know this poll also surveyed a lot of gun owners. What did we learn about how gun owners might be willing to work with - what they'll be able to work with when it comes to gun control legislation?

MONTANARO: Well, here's what we found. Nine in 10 gun owners support increasing funding for mental health screenings and treatment. Three-quarters of them are in favor of background checks, and a majority support red flag laws and gun licensing.

Now, they don't like everything. They're split on whether Congress should ban high-capacity magazines. A majority are against a ban on assault-style weapons, and they're very much against a mandatory gun buyback program for assault weapons that are currently in people's hands.

CHANG: OK. Can we talk a little more about these potential bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines? - 'cause we hear politicians say they're going to push for these. What do these poll results show about how much support there is?

MONTANARO: Well, on both of those items, there's majority support for them overall, but there are pretty sharp political divides. For example, take the assault-style weapons ban. Overall, 57% of those we talked to think that Congress should pass legislation to do that, but that's only because Democrats and Independents are together in favor of that. Only about a third of Republicans, on the other hand, think that's a good idea. On high-capacity magazines, we see a similar divide - Democrats and Independents together, Republicans going the other way.

What the data is telling us, though, is that some Republicans - or Republicans generally are in favor of restrictions, but those restrictions are largely about people, not guns. Remember, you hear the president and the NRA say repeatedly, it's a person who pulls the trigger, not the gun that does. And the things that Republicans in particular are telling us is that they want Congress to screen for the types of people who could use a gun.

CHANG: OK. So it's clear that this poll is showing there is broad support out there for at least some changes. So how much guidance should Congress take from a poll like this to do something?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, whether Congress will do anything actually is very much up in the air. And there's a real sense of urgency for Congress to act, especially among Democrats and some Republicans, after this summer because we saw so many mass shootings...

CHANG: Right.

MONTANARO: ...I mean - Dayton, El Paso, Odessa, Texas. But here's the thing. This all comes down to President Trump. Congressional Republicans are not going to take a risk passing anything that could be seen by groups like the NRA as anti-gun, unless President Trump comes out and gives them political cover, which he hasn't yet. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not exactly going to bring anything to the floor unless he knows that President Trump is definitely going to sign this. And it's kind of risky of a move for Republicans if they don't come out for these things because, you know, the NRA was outspent for the first time in 2018 by groups that want to see these restrictions in place.

CHANG: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're so welcome.

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