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But laws that permit citizens to carry concealed weapons or use lethal force for protection while in public were just as popular, the poll found.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll, which surveyed 1,477 Americans online between December 23 and 27, highlighted the difficulty U.S. policymakers face in devising ways to curb gun violence: gun control laws enjoy fervent support in the abstract, but laws preserving specific gun ownership privileges are also well liked.
The poll results come roughly two weeks after police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, using a semi-automatic weapon to murder 20 first graders and six school staff members. Ahead of the rampage, he had shot dead his mother, Nancy Lanza, in their home five miles (8 km) away. Lanza killed himself as police arrived at the school.
It was the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, which left 32 dead.
The Reuters/Ipsos survey found 48 percent of respondents agreed “gun ownership should have strong regulations or restrictions.” Meanwhile, 69 percent and 68 percent either strongly supported or somewhat supported laws allowing law-abiding citizens to get a concealed-weapon permit and “laws allowing citizens to use deadly force to protect themselves from danger in public places,” respectively.
Some restrictions on gun ownership enjoyed even more support than concealed carry rights. Nearly nine in 10 Americans favoured laws requiring background checks before someone purchases a gun, and just over seven in 10 favoured limits on the number of guns someone could purchase in a particular time frame.
But nearly four in 10 Americans said they supported allowing law-abiding citizens to bring a firearm into a “church, workplace, or retail establishment,” according to the poll. Several states currently ban guns in such places.
An equal number said they were “very concerned” about increased purchases of semi-automatic weapons following the shooting in Connecticut, further illustrating the dissonance.
The latest poll results echoed attitudes expressed by Americans surveyed immediately after the Newtown massacre and differed sharply from Reuters/Ipsos polls conducted prior to it. The share of Americans supporting strong limits on gun ownership rose by 8 percentage points to 50 percent in the days after the shooting.
The poll’s findings had a credibility interval, which is similar to a margin of error, of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.