Poll: Most Americans say curbing gun violence is more important than gun rights
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
One year after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, fewer Americans say they believe schools are safe. And the No. 1 thing most people believe could stop mass shootings is a ban on semiautomatic assault-style weapons. These are just some of the findings in a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. It also finds the highest percentage of Americans in a decade say that it's more important now to control gun violence than to protect gun rights. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is here with us now to tell us more. Domenico, good morning.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.
MARTIN: So could you just give us some more detail about these numbers that indicate how people are thinking about gun violence versus protecting gun rights? It seems that there's been some movement there.
MONTANARO: Yeah, well, 60%, we found, of the almost 1,300 respondents say it's more important to control gun violence than protect gun rights. And that's the highest percentage in the 10 years Marist has been asking this question. And that also includes 4 in 10 gun owners, by the way. A decade ago, people were split pretty much down the middle on this question. But we've seen mass shooting after mass shooting, and those have seemed to move the needle, but really mostly with Democrats and many independents. Two-thirds of Republicans continue to side with protecting gun rights.
MARTIN: We also mentioned that a growing number of people also feel that schools are not safe. How do those numbers break down?
MONTANARO: Yeah, 57% say that their schools and their communities are safe from gun violence, but since 2019, that's down eight points. You know, people saying their local schools are not safe has jumped 10 points in that stretch to 40%. That's a lot of people saying that they're very nervous about sending their kids to school. You know, Democrats are, again, the most likely to say they feel this way. Seven in 10 Republicans, 6 in 10 independents still feel that their schools are safe. And some of that may come from where people live, frankly. I mean, Democrats are far more concentrated in populous cities and suburbs. And our poll found that people who live in cities are more likely to either themselves or know someone who's experienced gun violence. Some of it, though, is ideology, too. I mean, the AR-15 rifle, for example, has become something of a cultural identifier with Republicans. It's not uncommon to see lawmakers wearing AR-15 lapel pins on the floor of the House and Senate.
MARTIN: So let's talk about that for a minute, these AR-15-style rifles. And let me just remind people that some military-grade weapons were actually banned for 10 years from 1994 to 2004, but that ban was allowed to lapse. What do people think about banning them now?
MONTANARO: Well, Democrats certainly think that this is the top thing that would reduce gun violence. Forty-four percent of Democrats chose this as their top option, but only 1 in 10 Republicans did. They picked instead mental health screenings and arming teachers in schools, something Democrats think is a terrible idea. But it was on those assault-style weapons where we saw the biggest gap between the parties.
MARTIN: It is a fact - mass shootings are growing more common. How are people responding to that?
MONTANARO: Yeah, you know, like with controlling gun violence versus protecting gun rights, more than 6 in 10 say that their first reaction when they hear about mass shootings is that there need to be stricter gun laws. But we also saw that when it comes to those saying that their first reaction is people needing to carry guns, that's jumped by 10 points in the last four years too. And we saw almost 6 in 10 support stand your ground laws. And with, you know, these very strong feelings, we saw 1 in 5 people said that they don't think anything would help curb gun violence. And with Congress divided on this, solutions are being sought locally, and those laws can vary substantially state to state.
MARTIN: So really interesting findings. That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thank you so much.
MONTANARO: Thank you.
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