Poll: School shooting seen as sign of larger societal problem

A majority of people see Friday's carnage at a Connecticut elementary school as indicative of larger societal problems, and not merely a troubled individual's isolated act, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll released Monday.

The poll results reverse a recent trend in which the public viewed deadly mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Tucson, Ariz., as aberrations that did not reflect underlying problems in American society. The finding comes as new calls rise for an assault weapons ban from anti-gun advocates and lawmakers, including some lawmakers who have in the past staunchly defended the public's right to bear arms, according to the report.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown took the lives of 20 children and six adult school employees. The shooter, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother and himself.

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Fifty-four percent said they favor stricter gun control laws in general, the highest percentage in the last five years. Still, this number is little changed. Since 2007, the percentage of those who say they favor stricter gun laws has hovered near 50 percent, and between 1992 and 2007, those who said they favored stricter gun laws averaged close to 60 percent.

However, enthusiasm is on the side of those who favor stricter gun laws – 44 percent are strongly in favor, against 32 percent who are strongly opposed. In addition, 59 percent said they would support a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips that carry more than 10 bullets, with 47 percent strongly in favor against only 29 strongly opposed.

The percentage of those who favor stricter gun laws dwindles along with the size of the gun, with 52 percent saying they favor banning semi-automatic handguns. A strong majority, 71 percent, are opposed to banning handguns outright (with an exception for law enforcement), the highest that number has been since 1999.

The survey indicates there could be public support for legislation similar to what Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she will introduce on the first day of the new Congress in January, reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons.

“It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession, not retroactively, prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets,” Feinstein said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

The ABC News-Washington Post poll of 602 adults was conducted between Dec. 14-16 and has a 4.5 percentage point margin of error.

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