American’s support for gun control has fallen to the lowest level in seven years, according to a Gallup survey released Wednesday.
According to the poll, 52% of U.S. adults say they want stricter gun laws, a five-point decrease from Gallup’s last survey and the lowest reading since 2014. The findings come as violent crimes and homicides are rising in the U.S. and after Americans set a record for firearms purchases in 2020.
Gallup observed that calls for gun control typically spike when mass shooting events receive widespread media coverage and recede as that attention fades away. For instance, three years ago after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, support for increased gun control surged to 67%, the highest level recorded since 1993.
Now, 35% of U.S. adults think laws that govern the sale of firearms should remain unchanged, while 11% say they favor less strict gun laws.
Support for gun control fell by 15 percentage points among Independents, which drove the overall 5% decrease in support recorded. Democrats remain nearly unanimous in support for stricter gun laws, while a majority of Republicans (56%) like gun laws as they are now, The remainder of Republicans are split between favoring increased gun control (24%) and wanting fewer gun restrictions (20%).
Additionally, support for a complete ban on handguns in the U.S. has reached an all-time low of 19%. Support for such a ban peaked at 60% when Gallup first asked the question in 1959 and has not reached a majority since.
“Americans’ support for stricter gun laws has typically risen in the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings and fallen during periods without such events. Changes in the party occupying the White House may also influence preferences for gun laws,” Megan Brenan wrote for Gallup. “Generally, the public favors stricter laws when Republicans are in office and less strict laws when Democrats are.”
Perceptions about crime may be related to the lack of support for gun control. Gallup found that a vast majority of American gun owners (88%) cite protection from crime as the chief reason they own a gun.
“Polling was done shortly after the FBI’s annual crime report documented a record one-year increase in the murder rate between 2019 and 2020, which may have made personal protection more salient in gun owners’ minds than in past years,” Gallup senior editor Jeffrey M. Jones said. “Gallup finds that Americans perceive increased crime in their area and in the U.S., more generally.”
In September, the FBI reported a nearly 30% increase in homicides in 2020, the largest single-year increase ever recorded by the bureau. The FBI said the violent crime rate rose by 5.2% last year compared to the previous year.
According to Gallup, 31% of U.S. adults say they own a gun, a number that has remained relatively unchanged for decades.