The massacre of children in Newtown, Ct., appears to be profoundly swaying Americans’ views on guns, galvanizing the broadest support for stricter gun laws in about a decade, says a New York Times/CBS News poll. A rise in support for stricter gun laws stretches across political lines. The survey found that a majority of Americans — 54 percent — think gun control laws should be tightened, up markedly from a CBS News poll last April that found that only 39 percent backed stricter laws.
Whether the Newtown shooting, in which 20 first graders and 6 adults were killed, will have a long-term effect on public opinion is hard to assess. Unlike smaller increases in support for gun control after other mass shootings, including after the 2011 case in Tucson that severely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the latest polling results suggest a deeper, and possibly more resonating, shift. The idea of requiring background checks on all gun purchases, eliminating a provision that allows about 40 percent of guns to be sold by unlicensed sellers without checks, was overwhelmingly popular. Nine in 10 would favor such a law, including 9 in 10 of the respondents with a gun in their household, and 85 percent whose households include National Rifle Association members. A ban on high-capacity magazines, like the 15- and 30-round magazines that have been used in recent mass shootings, was backed by 6 in 10. Just over half of all respondents, 53 percent, said they would support a ban on some semiautomatic weapons.