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Poll: Most Americans say curbing gun violence is more important than gun rights

FILE - A protestor holds a sign during a Students Demand Action event, near the U.S. Capitol, Monday, June 6, 2022, in Washington.
Alex Brandon
/
AP
FILE - A protestor holds a sign during a Students Demand Action event, near the U.S. Capitol, Monday, June 6, 2022, in Washington.

The highest percentage of Americans in a decade say they think it's more important to curb gun violence than protect gun rights, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

The finding comes a year after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the second-deadliest in American history. Multiple other mass shootings that have taken place in the time since that one.

But the survey of almost 1,300 adults also shows Americans' views on guns are mixed, with little consensus on what to do about gun violence.

Fewer Americans say they feel their community's schools are safe from gun violence. And while a significant majority feels the answer to mass shootings is stricter gun laws, the percentage believing the solution is more people needing to carry guns has jumped 10 points in the last four years.

6 in 10 say controlling gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights

That's the highest in 10 years and includes 4 in 10 gun owners.

In 2013, people were split on this. But Democrats and many independents have shifted since.

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Two thirds of Republicans, however, side with protecting gun rights.

57% say schools in their community are safe

But since 2019, that's down 8 points.

Those saying their local schools are not safe has jumped 10 points.

This is driven by Democrats, who are split on whether schools are safe.

Republicans (69%) and independents (58%) largely still feel their community schools are safe.

There are wide divisions on semi-automatic, assault style weapons, like the AR-15

For Democrats, banning these kinds of weapons was their top choice for what could reduce gun violence — 44% of Democrats said so.

But only 13% of Republicans did. That discrepancy was the widest of all the options tested in this survey, which included mental health screenings for all gun buyers, background checks at gun shows and private sales, red-flag laws and allowing teachers to carry guns in classrooms.

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Overall, 27% said banning assault style guns would have the biggest impact, followed by mental health screenings, purchases at gun shows and private sales and red-flag laws.

For Republicans, though it was mental health screenings they believe would have the most impact, followed by arming teachers in schools.

Notably, the older people are, the more likely they were to say this type of ban would help — 37% of those 60 or older listed this first, followed by 45 to 59 (29%), 30 to 44 (23%), and 18 to 29 (15%).

A significant portion (1 in 5) of the population, though, doesn't think anything will work.

FILE - Family and friends of those killed and injured in the school shootings at Robb Elementary take part in a protest march and rally, Sunday, July 10, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.
Eric Gay / AP
/
AP
FILE - Family and friends of those killed and injured in the school shootings at Robb Elementary take part in a protest march and rally, Sunday, July 10, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.

More than 6 in 10 say their first reaction when they hear about mass shootings is that there need to be stricter gun laws

But those saying people need to carry guns has also gone up by 10 points since 2019, from 25% to 35%.

A majority supports stand-your-ground laws

A significant majority (58%) said they support these kinds of laws that allow people who are in a public place and believe that their life or safety is in danger to kill or injure the person who they think is threatening them.

This includes 81% of Republicans and 57% of independents; 60% of Democrats disapprove.

Non-whites and those in states with more lax gun laws more likely to experience gun violence

FILE - Crosses, flowers and other memorabilia form a make-shift memorial for the victims of the shootings at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Sunday, July 10, 2022.
Eric Gay / AP
/
AP
FILE - Crosses, flowers and other memorabilia form a make-shift memorial for the victims of the shootings at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Sunday, July 10, 2022.

Overall, 41% say they or someone they know has experienced gun violence, for example, by being threatened with a gun or as the victim of a shooting.

The groups that were the most likely to say so were those 30- to 44-years old (53%), parents with children under 18 (52%), gun owners (49%), people who live in big cities (48%), GenZ/Millennials (47%) and non-whites (47%).

Non-whites were 10 points more likely than whites to experience gun violence or know someone who has.

People in states with more lax gun laws were also 8 points more likely to say they or someone they know has experienced gun violence, 45% to 37%.


The survey of 1,286 adults was conducted from May 15-18 with live interviewers using mixed modalities – by phone, cell phone and landlines, text and online. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, meaning results could be about 3 points higher or lower than reported.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.