A CNN poll released on Sunday showed that 70 percent of Americans now favor stricter gun laws, the highest level of support since 1993. The findings suggest, as CNN puts it, that “the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has shifted public opinion on gun laws in a way other recent mass shootings have not.”
The caveat here is that such surges in opinion rarely last long. Still, the level of support shows a dramatic increase from even a few months ago. In the aftermath of the Las Vegas mass shooting, a CNN poll showed that only 52 percent of Americans favored new firearms restrictions
Now, even a majority of people (57 percent) who live in gun-owning households favor some new restrictions, and 49 percent of Republicans are onboard.
Some specific measures that are broadly popular: 87 percent favor banning felons and those with mental health problems from getting guns; 71 percent favor banning anyone under 21 from buying a firearm; and 63 percent favor a ban on high-capacity magazines.
The poll also showed that President Trump is at his lowest approval rating — 35 percent — since taking office.
Separately, a USA Today/Suffolk poll also showed overwhelming support for new gun laws, but fierce, understandable skepticism that Congress would do anything about it.
That poll had Trump at 38 percent approval and 60 percent disapproval, down nine points from one year ago.
Highlights from the survey, which was taken among 1,000 people from Tuesday through Saturday: 61 percent say “tightening gun-control laws and background checks would prevent more mass shootings in the United States.” 63 percent say semiautomatic weapons should be banned. And 76 percent say people who have been treated for mental illness should be banned from owning guns.
Despite these lopsided numbers, Congress is not on the brink of dramatic action. With Republicans in power, a semiautomatic weapon ban is almost certainly a nonstarter. President Trump has expressed support for banning “bump stocks,” which modify rifles into machine guns, but even that modest measure may run into trouble. He has also floated the idea of new age restrictions, but the odds of the idea turning into action on the federal level are slim to none.
There could be some progress on the mental-health front. President Trump has expressed support for “red-flag” laws, which would allow authorities to seize guns from people deemed a danger to others — though that’s a far cry from the poll respondents’ wishes.
A comprehensive background-check bill may also get a hearing, but Republican senator Pat Toomey, who unsuccessfully attempted to usher such a bill through Congress in 2013, said on Sunday that he hasn’t received any commitments from Senate leadership, and any such bill would face a tough road in the House.
USA Today/Suffolk poll respondents were not exactly hopeful about the prospects for action; only 19 percent of respondents said the prospects were “excellent or good” for legislative solutions.