WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Despite a year of high-profile mass shootings across the country, Americans are still deeply divided on gun control and ownership.
The most recent Pew Research Center survey on gun control from July 26-29 – just after the movie theater shooting that killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo. – 47 percent of respondents said it was more important to control gun ownership, while 46 percent said it was more important to protect the Americans’ rights to own guns.
Those opinions had not changed much since April 2012, when 45 percent of survey respondents favored gun control, and 49 percent backed Americans’ gun rights.
The issue of gun ownership in America is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Americans’ support of the right to own guns has actually increased in recent years. Gun control opinions have been a much more divisive issue since early 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama’s election. From 1993 through 2008, a large majority said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun rights.
In recent years, mass shootings have not had a large effect on Americans’ attitudes toward gun rights.
After the 2011 Tucson, Ariz., shooting that killed six people and seriously wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 46 percent of Americans supported gun control, and 49 percent supported gun rights. In April 2007, following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech University that killed 32 people, 60 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership, which was little changed from 58 percent in February 2004.
The political gap between Republicans and Democrats has widened significantly in recent years.
In July, following the shootings in Colorado, 71 percent of Republicans said it was more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns while just 26 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership. For Democrats, the opinions were roughly the opposite – 72 percent of respondents said gun control was more important, while only 21 percent prioritized gun rights.
A 1993 Pew survey recorded that only 45 percent of Republicans prioritized gun rights over gun control. In that same period of time, Democrats’ views changed very little. In the same 1993 survey, a similar 25 percent of Democrats said gun rights was more important than gun control.