Support for Stronger Gun Laws Used to Fluctuate. Now It’s Holding Steady.


Without major reform and investments, our nation’s gun violence epidemic isn’t going anywhere. But neither is public support for stronger gun laws.

Polling on public support for gun safety measures used to follow a familiar story: tragedy would strike and support for stronger gun laws would spike, and then eventually it would fall back down to pre-tragedy levels.

We saw this after Sandy Hook: In the wake of the tragedy, 58% of voters supported stricter gun laws, but a year later that number tapered off to 49%.

This time, the American people have reached their breaking point. In this new era of gun safety, public support for stronger gun laws has grown—and held steady.

The proof is in the latest numbers: A Quinnipiac poll released in February found that 60% of American voters support stricter gun laws. That’s up from 56% in April 2018.

Support for universal background checks has also remained consistent over the years: despite the gun lobby’s attempts to spread fear and lies leading up to last month’s House vote on H.R.8 and H.R. 1112, 93% of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

The latest polls couldn’t be any clearer. Americans from all walks of life are tired of gun violence and ready to make our gun laws stronger.

The Vast Majority of Americans Support Stricter Gun Laws

Support for gun safety reform has stayed steady over the past year.

  • Quinnipiac (March 2019): 60% of Americans support stricter gun laws, up from 56% when this question was asked in April of 2018. Among Democrats, 87% support stricter gun laws.
  • NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll (February 2019): A solid majority of Americans, 59%, say their first reaction when hearing about mass shootings is that the country needs stricter gun laws. Only a quarter of them say their first thought is that more people need to carry a gun.
  • CBS News Poll (February 2019): 56% of Americans want laws concerning the sale of guns to be stricter.
  • Gallup (October 2018): 61% of Americans feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made stricter than they are now.

Americans are Afraid of Gun Violence

As American families continue to grapple with active shooter drills and breaking news about deadly shootings, their concerns are escalating.

  • Reuters/Ipsos (February 2019): 85% of Americans report being concerned over gun violence, and 65% of parents are worried about sending their child to school because of gun violence. These concerns cross partisan lines: 95% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans are worried about gun violence, and 73% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans worry about sending their children to school.
  • NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll (February 2019): 53% of Americans are concerned that a mass shooting could happen at a school in their community. Women are far more concerned than men (63% versus 43%) about that possibility.
  • Quinnipiac (March 2019): 73% of voters—including 95% of Democrats, 52% of Republicans, and 74% of Independents—believe that more must be done to address gun violence.

Rarely Do People Agree on Anything As Much As They Agree on Background Checks

Across the board, surveys continue to show overwhelming support—including among gun owners—for universal background checks.

  • Quinnipiac (March 2019): 93% of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers—including 89% of Republicans, 98% of Democrats, and 93% of Independents. Even gun owners show high support for background checks, with 87% voicing support for requiring background checks for all gun buyers.
  • NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll (February 2019): 89% of Americans believe that requiring background checks at gun shows or other private sales will make a difference when it comes to reducing gun violence.
  • Reuters/Ipsos (February 2019): There is broad support on both sides of the aisle for expanding background checks to include sales at gun shows and between private individuals—Democrats 92% and Republicans 78%.

Bipartisan Support for Stronger Gun Laws Across the Board

Across party lines, voters are in agreement on major gun safety policies.

  • Reuters/Ipsos (February 2019): Policies such as raising the legal age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 (Democrats 82%, Republicans 63%), tracking gun sales through a federal database (Democrats 90%, Republicans 73%), banning high-capacity ammunition clips (Democrats 84%, Republicans 58%), banning military-style assault weapons (Democrats 86%, Republicans 56%), and banning semi-automatic weapons (Democrats 79%, Republicans 49%) receive majority or near majority support from both parties.

Ending gun violence is only becoming increasingly personal for more Americans. We saw that most visibly on Election Day last November when the majority of candidates who ran on gun safety won.

Americans will not be resigned to a future where families can only hope that their children come home, and children worry that their school will be next.

These polls are more than just numbers—they are a clarion call for Congress to work across party lines to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

Learn More: Public Opinion Round Up: Guns Violence in America