Polls suggest gun control unlikely to be a campaign issue

With some Democratic lawmakers calling for stricter gun-control measures in the wake of Saturday's shooting in Arizona, polling suggests it's unlikely to morph into a campaign issue for 2012. 

Across the board, polling from the past several years shows that support for stricter gun-control laws has declined, even after mass shootings like the one that occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech in the spring of 2007, which killed 32 people.

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Saturday's shooting killed at least six people and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Gallup asked about the nation's gun laws in October of 2010 and found that, for the second year in a row, the number of Americans supporting stricter gun-control laws was at a record low.

Just 44 percent said the laws should be tougher, while 42 percent said they should remain the same. Another 12 percent of respondents favored loosening restrictions on guns.

Gallup's long-term data shows that the number of people favoring tighter gun laws has declined precipitously over the past five years. In response to the same question in October of 2005, Gallup found 57 percent of Americans in favor of stricter laws and just 35 percent who said the laws should remain the same.

"Like we've seen in the past, my hunch is that there will be a moment of intensity on both sides," said pollster John Zogby. "But in the long run, the needle won't move much at all."

Surveys taken in the weeks after the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, for example, showed no significant increase in support for tighter gun laws.

A Zogby poll from just after the 2007 shooting found that 69 percent of people believed the shooting could not have been prevented and was simply the act of a deranged individual.

An AP/Ipsos poll from April of 2007 found just 47 percent of people wanted stricter gun laws, while 38 percent said the current laws were appropriate.

A CBS News/New York Times poll taken during the same time period in 2007 found that 43 percent of Americans said stricter gun laws would have had no effect on the violence at Virginia Tech.

After the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, Gallup measured a slight increase in the number of people backing tighter gun laws, but it lasted for just a couple of months.

Zogby said while some "moderate reforms" may have a chance in Congress in the wake of Saturday's shooting, he predicted that any "broad gun control measures" won't have a chance in Congress, and he said gun control won't climb up the list of relevant campaign issues.

"I'm old enough to remember the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, and I've been polling a long time," Zogby said. "I've learned that for many, the right to bear arms is inviolate and it simply doesn't change."