American voters are evenly divided on the need for stricter gun control laws but don’t think city government should have the right to prevent citizens from owning handguns in their city.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% say stricter gun control laws while another 44% disagree and 12% are not sure. Most African-American and Hispanic voters believe stricter gun control laws are needed while a plurality (47%) of White voters disagree. Sixty-two percent (62%) of Democrats say stricter gun control laws are needed and 63% of Republicans hold the opposite view. Among unaffiliated voters, 37% want stricter laws while 48% disagree. Overall, the desire for stricter gun control laws is little changed from last December.
However, while there is an even divide on the question of whether stricter laws are needed, only 26% believe that city governments have the right to prevent citizens from owning handguns in their city. Sixty-four percent (64%) disagree and say such a restriction is a violation of the Second Amendment. The United States Supreme Court is expected to announce a decision soon on whether a Washington, DC law banning handguns violates the Constitution.
The Second Amendment was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, a collection of vital Amendments added shortly after the Constitution went into effect. The Amendment reads "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." Some have argued that this provides a right to bear arms only in the context of a well-regulated militia. Others reject that notion and say it’s an individual right. The Supreme Court has never ruled definitively on that question. That last major Court ruling on this Amendment was issued nearly 70 years ago when justices upheld a federal ban on sawed-off shotguns.
Not surprisingly, households where someone owns a gun are particularly inclined to believe that a ban on handguns violates the Second Amendment-- 80% of those from gun owning households hold that view. Among households without a gun owner, 35% believe the government has the right to ban handgun ownership while 50% say the Second Amendment trumps the city law.
Eighty percent (80%) of Republicans say that city governments should not have the right to ban handguns. That view is shared by 52% of Democrats and 63% of voters not affiliated with either major party.
The Washington, DC law before the Court was passed in 1976. Last year, he U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the city's gun ban and sent the case on to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court upheld the Appeals Court ruling and the ban on handguns was overturned. It is possible that other restrictions could survive such a ruling including background checks requirements.
Eighteen percent (18%) of voters say they’ve followed news stories of this case Very Closely and another 28% say they’ve been paying attention Somewhat Closely. Twenty-two percent (22%) of gun-owning households are following the case Very Closely along with 12% of those in households without a gun.
Thirty-seven percent (37%) of American voters say that stricter gun control laws would reduce violent crime while 19% say it would increase violent crime. A plurality—39%--say it would have no impact.
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