Public support for strengthening the nation’s gun laws remains high as Congress considers its response to the deadly mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y. But according to a new Morning Consult/Politico survey, Republican voter backing for stricter gun control measures has begun to weaken even as they and gun rights supporters continue to support a range of specific policies.
Where voters stand on gun control in the abstract
- Roughly 2 in 3 voters (64%) support stricter gun control laws, up 4 percentage points from a survey conducted after the May 14 mass shooting at a grocery in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, while 30% oppose them, down 2 points over the same time period.
- Among Republican voters, 39% back stronger gun laws and 54% oppose them. The share in favor is down 5 points since the Uvalde elementary school shooting, while the share in opposition (54%) has reverted to its standing after the Buffalo attack. Republicans are roughly twice as likely to “strongly oppose” stricter gun control (36%) as they are to “strongly support” it (17%).
- Nine in 10 Democrats back tougher gun restrictions, as do 62% of independents — both up since the Buffalo shooting.
The bipartisan gun-related talks in the Senate
The weakening of Republican support for stricter gun control laws comes as a handful of GOP senators continue to engage with Democrats in talks about a congressional response to the latest high-profile school massacre. Those discussions appear to have focused on few reforms that would bring wholesale changes to gun ownership.
Rather than a sweeping background check overhaul or an outright ban on the sale of assault-style weapons to adults under the age of 21, lawmakers have said they’re looking to tweak the background check system for young adults that could slow their sale. Rather than a national red-flag law, the senators have talked about incentivizing states to enact them on their own, and are also looking at boosting funding for mental health and school safety.
The debate has been cast as a balancing act between protecting Americans’ gun rights and restricting gun ownership, especially from those who might do harm. On this question, half of voters — including 78% of Democrats — said it’s more important to limit gun ownership than to protect the right of Americans to own guns, which was prioritized by 43% of all voters and 73% of Republicans. By an 11-point margin, independents were more likely than not to say limiting gun ownership was more important than protecting Americans’ gun rights.
Regardless of which side of the gun debate voters prioritize, the survey found key places of common ground.
Gun Rights Advocates Back Many Gun Control Policies
Gun control has ample support even among gun rights proponents
- There’s broad support among voters who prioritize protecting the right of Americans to own guns for expanding screening and treatment for the mentally ill (87%), requiring background checks on all gun sales (86%) and preventing sales of all firearms to people who have been reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental health provider (82%).
- Roughly 3 in 4 gun rights advocates support requiring a person to be 21 in order to purchase an assault-style weapon, and 7 in 10 back the operative policy of red-flag laws — temporarily taking away firearms from people who are seen as a threat to themselves or others as determined by a court order.
- While an assault weapons ban appears to lack the necessary 60 votes in the Senate, such a measure is backed by 64% of the electorate. Some Republican voters have backed away from the policy in recent weeks — from 50% post-Buffalo to 44% in the latest survey — along with declines in support for other gun-control measures.
- Meanwhile, support for mental health and background checks has increased among GOP voters over that time frame.
The latest Morning Consult/Politico survey was conducted June 4-5, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,006 registered U.S. voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.