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Poll shows stricter gun laws supported

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LOS ANGELES -- Public support for stricter gun laws has leaped to its highest point in eight years with 58 per cent now in favour, according to a USA Today / Gallup poll released Thursday. That's a 14-point jump from last year.

Of those surveyed, 92 per cent of Americans want background checks for buyers at gun shows and 62 per cent want to ban magazines that carry more than 10 rounds, which have played a frequent role in mass shootings.

But Americans still oppose a full ban on semi-automatic assault rifles 51 per cent to 44 per cent, and opposition to a full handgun ban is higher than it has ever been, at 74 per cent.

The poll was conducted with 1,038 respondents by phone over Dec. 19-22, with a four per cent margin of error.

Overall, some experts say mass shootings aren't happening more often than usual, though 2012 has been a particularly bloody year for such attacks -- some of which have involved illegally obtained assault rifles.

Such killings have long played a role in shaping the nation's gun policy.

In a 1989 attack reminiscent of the massacre at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, a drifter named Patrick Purdy opened fire on a schoolyard full of children in Stockton, Calif., with an AK-47, killing five students and wounding 29 more. Outrage resulted in an assault-weapons ban in California that prefigured the 10-year nationwide ban that arrived in 1994. A 1990 Gallup poll showed 78 per cent public support for tighter gun rules.

Some experts say high-profile massacres in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Oak Creek, Wis., and Tucson, Ariz., have left a similarly indelible impression on the public mindset, with the recent Sandy Hook shooting exerting the most pull. That contention is supported by the sudden weakening of support among respondents who want gun laws to stay the same, according to the USA Today / Gallup poll.

For the first time in more than a decade, more poll respondents favour enacting new laws to control guns rather than just enforcing existing laws more rigorously.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2012 A21

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