New TIME/CNN Poll: White House Gun Agenda Faces Conflicted Public

Many of the pillars of Obama's plan are popular, but much of the public isn't convinced tighter gun laws will work.

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Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama unveils a series of proposals to counter gun violence as Vice President Joe Biden looks on during an event at the White House in Washington, Jan. 16, 2013.

A majority of Americans favor tighter gun laws, but the White House efforts to enact a new package of regulations will have to overcome political resistance and voters’ ambivalence about the causes of gun violence, according to the results of a new TIME/CNN/ORC poll.

The new survey shows why the White House’s fight is daunting: the gun debate is muddled. Many of the pillars of Obama’s plan are popular, but less so than in the past, despite the searing mass-shooting in December that drove the President’s new push. And while the media widely criticized the NRA’s absolutist stance in the wake of the Newtown massacre, a plurality of the public agrees with the organization’s positions, and believes that the best way to curb rampant gun violence is to station an armed guard in every school, as the NRA suggested.

In its push to move the most aggressive gun-control push in a generation through a bitterly split Congress, the White House also must persuade a public that isn’t convinced the main reason for America’s epidemic of violence is the availability of guns. Just 23% of respondents in TIME’s poll called the availability of guns the primary cause of gun violence, compared with 37% who pointed to parenting and another 37% who cited the influence of popular culture.

While 56% of respondents in the new poll said existing gun laws were too lax and 55% of respondents backed tighter restrictions, those numbers have dwindled from earlier highs. In a similar TIME/CNN poll from Dec. 1993 — taken just after Bill Clinton signed a new law imposing background checks on gun buyers — 70% of respondents backed new gun regulations. In that same 1993 poll, roughly half of respondents said tighter restrictions would reduce violence. In the new TIME/CNN poll, just 39% said tougher gun laws would stem the tide of gun violence sweeping the U.S., compared to 61% who disagreed.

Another challenge for the White House is that opponents of gun control are somewhat more ardent about the issue than Americans who support stricter gun laws. Just 19% of overall respondents said they would only vote for a representative who shares their views on guns, compared to 62% who said it was among the many issues that would inform their vote. But the figure was somewhat higher among self-identified Republicans (22%) and conservatives (24%). Fifty-three percent of gun owners, including 72% of Republicans, say they feel the federal government is trying to take away their right to own a gun, despite Obama’s inaction on gun control in his first term and the White House’s continued insistence that its proposals will not infringe on Second Amendment rights. The prospect of a ballot-box rebellion from furious gun owners could weigh on the minds of the moderate Democrats Obama will need to muscle his package through Congress.

Part of the gun lobby’s momentum is due to the NRA, which remains broadly popular despite the media’s mockery of the organization’s response to the Newtown shooting. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they agreed with the NRA’s position on guns, compared to 42% who disagreed. The organization’s proposal to install armed guards in every U.S. school was panned in the press as unrealistic and prohibitively expensive, but 54% of respondents support it and 47% said the idea would do more to prevent gun violence than new gun control laws. The White House task force led by Vice President Joe Biden partially adopted this plank, advocating for 1,000 new “school resource officers,” including specially trained police officers, as a deterrent to student violence.

Major individual components of the White House agenda boast board popular support, including tougher background checks, an assault-weapons ban, better registration databases and ammunition limits. Eighty-seven percent of Americans (and 87% of Republicans) favor background checks at gun shows, a major loophole in the current law; another 75% support checks on sales by non-licensed dealers. A solid majority support the bans on assault weapons (56% overall, and 53% of self-described independents) and high-capacity clips (56%), as well as requiring gun owners to register their weapons with local government (69%).

These numbers support the White House’s contention that the public is receptive to reasonable measures designed to stop the scourge of gun violence. But the poll is also a reminder that gun control, always among the most fraught topics in U.S. politics, will be particularly tricky to get through a polarized Congress over the objections of powerful foes.

The poll, conducted by ORC International, surveyed 814 adult Americans (556 by landline phone and 248 by cell phone) on Jan. 14 and Jan. 15. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

187 comments
Michelle08
Michelle08

I certainly do not trust the government.  Yet compared to the NRA which pushes to sell more and more advanced modern weapons to the general public, the government would be less likely to trade our lives (or our children's lives) for some bloody money. 

Michelle08
Michelle08

NRA is supported by firearm dealers. NRA and the firearm industry has been working hard to create “gun-loving” as well as “gun-nightmare” culture in the US.Unfortunately, these organizations only care about their money and power, not even a tiny little bit of public safety.

oldwhiteguy
oldwhiteguy

Right thinking and proper actions don't always begin by being self-evident.  If they did, we could've avoided a civil war over slavery and women would've had the vote from day one.  Today, far from being the mainstream representative of the hunter and sportsman, the NRA has turned into a lunatic fringe front for gun manufacturers.  The vast majority of Americans don't want to disarm hunters and sportsman.  We simply want safety on our streets.  So if we can license drivers, register cars, enforce medical and broadcasting standards and make people pick up after their dogs, we can certainly work our way into some reasonable and common sensible gun legislation. Unfortunately, the NRA, instead of engaging in adult conversation is going to cry about "King Obama" and the special treatment of his children and security guards in the hopes that we will not talk about the real issue. Their choice.  So ok, let the fighting begin.  Let's see who is on which side. Let's see which party and pols are taking checks.  If we can integrate our schools, we can control our firearms.  It'll take a while.  But the voices of Sandy Hook are telling us to get started.

wrathbrow
wrathbrow

I'm not happy that these laws had to be done by presidential mandate, it takes away from the by the people for the people process.

That said, I'm for the new laws. If someone is against them, I would like to know which of the specific new laws they are against and why.

Joseph Gillen
Joseph Gillen

How long would Hitler have kept going if every Jew, Catholic,Gypsey.Homosexual,Intellectual,Free thinker etc...had met the Nazi scum at the door with a gun in his hand?

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

The American public is comprised of too many people easily influenced by the sustained pro-gun message of the past 20 years. They don’t think, just reflexively repeat the brain-washing. Combine that with an inability to stay focused on anything more complex than the positions each week of American Idol contestants, and you will see why they think placing armed guards at schools is the solution -they think it’s  an easy way out. That does nothing to cut down the numbers of automatic weapons available for mass shootings. It’s really pretty simple. Other civilized countries, with tighter gun laws don’t have anything close to the numbers of gun-related crimes we have. This deeply embedded notion of American Exceptionalism translates into us thinking we are so special we can learn nothing from other countries. We’re being exceptional all right - exceptionally dumb.

lpsg435
lpsg435

In 1776 the Flintlock Musket was the AR-15 of it's day and everybody had one! Thank God for our well armed founding fathers!

Riette Breytenbach de Kock
Riette Breytenbach de Kock

So emotionally American. Just like in South Africa, laws only apply to the law abiding citizens. Criminals will always have access to guns... (And then, just for the fun of it, take away the Presidents' security details' 'guns'. See how save they feel or what happens when the first politician is shot!)

gmaki53
gmaki53

Obama kept refering to "the children" and how this is to protect their health and safety.  I think it is just an excuse for his ideological goals.  If he really wanted to save children, he could do something to help discourage abortion.  Per CDC data there have abeen about 50 million abortions since 1973.....about 3400 per day.  20 killed in Newtown is a tragedy.  3400 aparently isn't?  Must be because CNN won't post a 20 photos of an aborted fetus.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

The whole issue is muddled at best, but the president is doing something to at least establish accountability and responsibility in gun possession.  The polls only indicate a shrug of the shoulders, what can you do(?) mentality.   The president does not believe that is an acceptable position, and I agree.  It will be a long haul for sure, no instant panaceas, but for god's sake, we need to move on this and keep moving.

I won't dignify the sandbag NRA, given their less than classy personal attack of the president and his children.  I'll leave their simplistic pitch to the goons who can't see how useless the organization is.  

paulejb
paulejb

 "An armed man is a citizen. A disarmed man is a subject."

That just about says it all. That is why the left is so adamant in it's attempts to disarm the citizenry.

paulejb
paulejb

"They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Ben Franklin 


paulejb
paulejb

"Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not."
Thomas Jefferson

Succinct and simple enough for even the hysterics among us to grasp.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@wrathbrow The sad truth is, if we had a functioning House of Representatives, he wouldn't have to use executive orders for this. But the House Republicans have made it crystal clear that they have no interest in governing, no interst in serving the needs of the people, no interest in doing their jobs or doing what's right. All they care about is thwarting Obama at every turn.

Thankfully, he finally seems to have realized that and willing to do whatever is within his power to make necessary changes.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@lpsg435 Our founding fathers also had an army. And the French.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

@lpsg435 Good, you give us your assault weapon and we’ll give you a musket, since that’s what Amendment covered. 

Sue_N
Sue_N

@Riette Breytenbach de Kock You do realize that we've had politicians shot, right? That we've had presidents assassinated? That's precisely why our presidents and their families are required by law to have Secret Service protection.

And no one, no one, is advocating for taking away people's guns. There's nothing in the president's plan that calls for that. Read the damn thing.

Yes, criminals will always have access to guns. Just like criminals will always find ways to murder, rob and rape. Should we repeal our laws against those things as well?

Diecash1
Diecash1

@Riette Breytenbach de Kock The stupidity of your comment is impressive.  Since you contend that criminals will have guns despite the laws, you apparently believe that we don't need these laws.  Let's follow that idea to its conclusion, shall we?  Since criminals will continue to break the law, regardless of its existence, we should obviously eliminate all laws as they are only restricting law-abiding citizens, correct?  Take a moment and let the absurdity of that line of thinking sink in.  This is the idiocy that you're proposing.  Astounding.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@Sue_N 

Certainly puts a different spin on "freedom" doesn't it.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@gmaki53 So you're okay with children being shot once they escape the womb?

Also, you want to drive down the numbers of abortions? Then you and all other anti-abortionists need to pressure your Congressmen to fix the economy, provide low-cost housing and quality daycare, expand Medicaid and children's health insurance, improve education and expand access to contraceptives. That's how you combat abortion.

wrathbrow
wrathbrow

@gmaki53  

So your saying save more unborn but don't save more of those that are born/living. Brilliant.

CNN also won't post photos of the children shot, or aborted children, or someone puking, etc. If you want that sort of tabloid journalism visit Fox news.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@paulejb "Nobody is being disarmed.  Everybody is being investigated and regulated."  Paulie Pajamas should never own a firearm because he's a failure with logic and would probably shoot his neighbor and say, "I thought you were a burglar." 

Sue_N
Sue_N

@paulejb Which part, exactly, of the president's plan calls for disarming citizens? Citations, please.

MementoMori
MementoMori

@paulejb What it says is that all paulie has is slogans.

Meanwhile, 35 more people died today from firearms. 

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

@paulejb 

Was Ben speaking of assault weapons?  If so, was he also addressing the safety and liberty of 6 yr. olds?

MementoMori
MementoMori

@paulejb I'm glad that you're admitting we're giving up safety.

While there is may be an argument that we're more 'free' with guns available to anyone who can plop down a credit card at Walmart, we're not safer.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@paulejb Isaiah thought it was a pretty good idea: "And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war." (Isaiah 2:4)

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

@paulejb 

Dramatic, biblical, even relevant in Tom's time, but not now.  Our modern plows are much more efficient than those of which he and the bible spoke.

lpsg435
lpsg435

@SmoothEdward1 @lpsg435 Thank God for our French allies! Just think how quickly the war would have been over if our patriot minutemen had AR-15s!

Sue_N
Sue_N

@TyPollard @Sue_N Let's face it, so much of the Constitution was drafted the way it was to mollify the slave states that this doesn't sound at all preposterous.

Stopinstigating
Stopinstigating

@Sue_NOMG! You really have no clue just how truly creepy you sound to those of us born black in America, do you? 

 "...it would have been more racist, in Sanger's mind, to ignore African-Americans in the South than to fail at trying to raise the health and economic standards of their communities." (By having them kill their children, of course, for "public health" reasons.)

Feel free to add your name to list of morally bankrupt, condescending, patronizing Progressives still attempting to rationalize the unforgivable evil behind their "kill 'em for their own good" philosophy. Your commitment to the perpetuation of the disgusting and shameful legacy of the Progressive movement has been duly noted.

Diecash1
Diecash1

@Sue_N @gmaki53 I thought the obvious answer was more guns and more freedom.......or maybe those two are really one and the same.  < /snark >

gmaki53
gmaki53

@wrathbrow @gmaki53 I'm sorry, what I meant to say was that it is good that 3400 unborn children are killed each year via abortion.  It is a brilliant way to keep unwanted children from entering the world....much better than being responsible.  And before you jump on the rape, incest, life of mother...I do not oppose those.  They are small percentage and I feel those cases are up the mother to decide.

NebuchadnezzarII
NebuchadnezzarII

@MementoMori @paulejb You mean the Walmart that requires you to undergo a criminal background check like any other firearms dealer? That Walmart? I'm just asking, because all the decrees set forth by Obama aren't gonna do a darn thing about firearm sales at Walmart or any other FFL licensed dealer.

paulejb
paulejb

@MementoMori @paulejb

"The ruling class doesn't care about public safety. Having made it very difficult for States and localities to police themselves, having left ordinary citizens with no choice but to protect themselves as best they can, they now try to take our guns away. In fact they blame us and our guns for crime. This is so wrong that it cannot be an honest mistake."
Malcolm Wallop

lpsg435
lpsg435

@SmoothEdward1 @lpsg435 I guess you never have had a shot fired in anger.  I was in military for over 20 years and a police over for over 15 years. As a police officer people would call 911 and expect the police to save them. Most of the time all we did was cover up the bodies and write the report.  Your personal protection is up to you. I have been to calls were an armed residence stopped an attack with a firearm and I told them well done!

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

@lpsg435 @SmoothEdward1 until some nut gets ahold if an automatic weapon and kills your kids in school.,Then, it's not such a good idea to have one laying around is it.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@Stopinstigating @Sue_N So those of you "born black in America" don't want the economy fixed? You don't want affordable housing and quality daycare? You don't want an expansion of Medicaid and children's health insurance so that low income people can have access to health care? You don't want quality education and greater access to contraception? Really? You don't actually want to address the economic concerns that often drive women to seek abortions? You don't want to give women the power to wait until they're actually ready to have children?

Seriously?

Diecash1
Diecash1

@gmaki53 @Diecash1 @Sue_N First point:  No one is "pro-abortion" and that is only language that a zealot would choose to characterize those in favor of choice.

Second, precisely how is gun control, limited as that is in the U.S., not targeting the primary causes of gun violence?


gmaki53
gmaki53

@Diecash1 @Sue_N @gmaki53 

Because I mention the abortion topic, you assume I am a "right winger" and proceed to make fun of me.  Does your statement mean that ALL liberal/left/democrats are pro-abortion people who believe unborn children are nothing but a tumor-like mass that is unhuman until it breathes its first breath on its own.   Are you saying I can't be a democrat that feels abortion is wrong? A democrat can't believe that gun control isn't targeting the primary causes of gun violence?

Sue_N
Sue_N

@Diecash1 @Sue_N @gmaki53 Self-awareness has never been the right's strong suit. If they didn't have their hypocrisy, they wouldn't have anything at all.

Diecash1
Diecash1

@Sue_N @Diecash1 @gmaki53 Why certainly!  It's for the children!  

BTW, I really love how the right-wingers are attempting to use the "but it's for the children" argument while simultaneously b!tching about Obama saying the same thing.  Self-awareness is not in effect.

MementoMori
MementoMori

@paulejb @MementoMori Didn't Wallop spend most of his career fighting the existence of OSHA?

Yeah, there's a guy who's real concerned about the safety of others...