Confirming the results of other recent polls, a new Pew Research Center survey
says nearly six out of 10 Americans consider shootings like the one in Tucson to be isolated acts of troubled individuals, and that the latest violent incident has produced no significant change in public views on the issues of gun control and gun rights.
Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed Jan. 13-16 said the Arizona shooting spree, in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded and 19 others killed or injured, was the isolated act of an individual, compared to 31 percent who believe the incident reflected broader problems in American society. Twelve percent were undecided.
As for gun control, 49 percent said it was more important to protect the rights of gun owners while 46 percent said the emphasis should be on controlling who can obtain guns. That's a modest change from last September, when 50 percent came down on the side of gun control and 46 percent favored gun rights.
There is a big partisan divide on the question, however, with Republicans wanting to protect the rights of gun owners by a 72 percent to 22 percent margin while Democrats support tighter gun control measures by 70 percent to 26 percent.
Among the 31 percent who saw the Arizona incident as reflecting broader societal problems, 27 percent said the general social climate was at fault (things like breakdown of society or poor child rearing), 21 percent blamed the political and media climate, 14 percent said poor mental health services were responsible and 13 percent said it was too easy to get guns. The remainder cited other factors.
Other recent polls dealing with these questions found:
- Most Americans don't believe that stricter gun control laws would have prevented the shootings in Arizona on Saturday and the public is split on the question of toughening the laws regulating who can own firearms. (CBS News
, Jan. 9-10).
- While the Arizona shootings have triggered a national debate about whether the vitriol in political rhetoric has gone over the top, 57 percent of Americans do not believe the heated partisan tone of public debate had anything to do with the gun rampage in Tucson. (CBS News
, Jan. 9-10).
- Fifty-four percent said political rhetoric did not contribute to the incident while 40 percent said it did, with 6 percent expressing no opinion. (Washington Post/ABC News
- "Fifty-two percent ... favor stricter gun control laws in general; 45 percent are opposed. That fairly close division is a shift from before fall 2008; in 2006 and 2007 alike, for instance, 61 percent supported stricter gun control." (Washington Post/ABC News
- Americans have grown less supportive of strengthening gun laws over the last two decades. (Gallup
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