Poll: Most back tighter gun laws but oppose assault weapons ban

A new poll shows the public generally in favor of stricter gun laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting, but opposing many specific measures, including a ban on assault weapons.

Fifty-eight percent say they back tightening gun control, up from 43 percent in October of 2011, according to a new poll from USA Today released Wednesday night.

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Forty-seven percent say they back passing new gun laws, with 46 percent calling for tougher enforcement of existing restrictions. In October 2011, 60 percent favored enforcing existing laws to 35 percent who wanted new legislation. 

But the poll also finds that specific proposals to stem gun violence have not seen increased support after the Newtown tragedy, which left 26 dead, including 20 children.

Fifty-one percent oppose re-instating the federal ban on assault weapons, with 44 percent supporting the move. That is almost unchanged from 2011, when the public opposed the weapons ban by a 53-43 split.

Twenty-four percent back banning the possession of handguns, with 74 percent opposing. That also shows little movement since 2011, when 26 percent backed a ban and 73 percent opposed. 

Other laws, though, hold stronger support. Ninety-two percent support background checks at gun shows, with 7 percent opposing.  

Sixty-two percent also favor bans on high-capacity magazines, with 35 percent opposed to the proposal.

The shooting has sparked a renewed debate over the nation’s gun laws, with President Obama launching a White House task force to propose specific remedies in January to stem gun crime. Obama has signaled support for Democratic efforts to re-impose a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s largest gun lobby, has strongly rejected calls for new legislation, saying that more gun laws will not stop more violence. 

Last Friday, the NRA instead controversially proposed a national program to place armed guards in the nation’s schools to prevent a repeat of the Newtown massacre. 

Overall, voters still hold a favorable view of the NRA at 54-38, the poll finds. 

The poll was conducted from Dec. 19-22 and has a 4-point margin of error.