An overwhelming majority of voters — 83 percent — favor mandatory background checks on private sales and at gun shows, according to data released Friday by the Pew Research Center. Among Clinton supporters, 90 percent support background checks, and 75 percent of Trump supporters told pollsters they agree.
That’s not exactly a surprise to researchers. Expanding background checks has consistently registered wide support for several years, Pew said in a statement.
There was also broad consensus that people with mental illness or who are on federal no-fly or other watch lists should be prevented from purchasing guns.
Pew reported that 82 percent of Trump supporters and 83 percent of Clinton supporters who took the survey earlier this month approved of prohibiting gun sales to people who are mentally ill. People on the no-fly list or possible terrorist lists shouldn’t be able to buy guns either, according to 80 percent of Clinton supporters and 72 percent of Trump supporters. Libertarians, however, have opposed outright banning sales to people on the no-fly and terror watch lists because those databases are too broad, they say.
But apart from these possible reforms to gun regulations, the gulf between Democrats and Republicans keeps widening.
Pew started the survey the day after Trump uttered the controversial remark that if Clinton were to win the election, maybe “Second Amendment people” could stop her from appointing a Supreme Court judge. He’s returned to the inflamed issue by claiming that Clinton “wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”
Proposals to ban assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition clips are popular with Clinton backers but opposed by most would-be Trump voters. Among Clinton supporters, 74 percent support banning assault weapons and 75 percent support banning the high-capacity magazines. Only 34 percent of Trump supporters back each of those proposals, Pew’s report said.
On a question about overall priorities, voters exhibited the widest difference of opinion since the 2000 election.
Pew asked whether it’s more important to control gun ownership or protect gun rights. Nine out of 10 Trump supporters said it’s more important to protect gun rights than to control ownership. Only 9 percent favored controlling ownership over protecting rights. Among Clinton supporters, 79 percent said the controlling ownership is more important while 19 percent wanted to protect gun rights.
When Democrat Al Gore ran against Republican George Bush in 2000, the difference was much smaller, according to Pew. Then, only 66 percent of Democrats said that controlling gun ownership was their top priority while 46 percent of GOP voters said gun control was more important.
Overall, gun ownership was seen as a public benefit. A majority of responders — 58 percent — told Pew gun ownership does more to protect people from crime than it does to put them in danger. Only 37 percent said that owning firearms was more of a risk to public safety.