The White House is set to release a series of recommendations from Vice President Biden's task force on gun violence, which will no doubt face intense criticism from groups like the NRA and their allies. But two new polls suggest that a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, there's a growing public appetite for meaningful gun reform.
A Pew Research Center report released late yesterday found a majority of Americans support a wide variety of new measures, some by enormous margins. For example, 85% of Americans favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, while 80% support laws to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing guns.
It's worth emphasizing that in our current political climate, 80% of Americans don't agree on much, but they at least agree on measures like these.
What's more, two-thirds of Americans (67%) favor creating a federal database to track gun sales. In a bit of a surprise, nearly as many people (64%) support having more armed security in schools, boosted by large numbers of self-identified Republicans backing the idea.
Indeed, there are, not surprisingly, significant partisan divides on most of the proposals, with Democrats and Republicans more likely to back new measures than Republicans. That said, looking through the results, it's hard not to notice that GOP voters are not reflexively opposed to new gun laws -- among Republicans, 49% support a federal database, 49% support a ban on semi-automatic weapons, and 46% support a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.
Obviously, those are short of majorities, but the point is, nearly a majority of Republicans support new limits that are likely to be proposed in Washington, suggesting a mainstream consensus is coalescing around a set of sensible new restrictions.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll reflects similar attitudes. Of particular interest, the survey found, "More than half of Americans -- 52 percent in the poll -- say the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has made them more supportive of gun control; just 5 percent say they are now less apt to back tighter restrictions. Most also are at least somewhat worried about a mass shooting in their own community, with concern jumping to 65 percent among those with school-age children at home."
A month ago, many, including me, wondered whether this tragedy was different from other recent mass shootings, and would set a new trajectory for a policy conversation that has been stifled for many years. With each new poll, the answer is becoming clearer.