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Las Vegas mass shooting

Las Vegas shooting hasn’t changed America’s opinion on guns, according to poll

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 8:19pm

The US is closely divided on whether restricting firearms would reduce such mass shootings or murders, though a majority favour tighter laws as they have for several years, according to a new poll from Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research.

The massive divide on stricter limits remains firmly in place.

The survey was conducted from October 12-16, about two weeks after 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired on a crowded musical festival across the road from his hotel room, killing 58 and wounding more than 540 before killing himself. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

In this latest survey, 61 per cent said the country’s gun laws should be tougher, while 27 per cent would rather see them stay the same and 11 per cent want them to be less strict. That’s similar to the results of an AP-GfK poll in July 2016.

Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats, but just a third of Republicans, want to see gun laws made stricter.

Kenny Garcia, a 31-year-old resident of Stockton, California and a former gun owner, said he is not sure whether tighter gun laws would reduce mass shootings.

“That’s the hard part,” Garcia said. “How do you control something like that when you have no idea where it’s coming from, whether you control the guns or not?”

Still, he is frustrated by the easy availability of some devices – such as the “bump stocks” used by the Las Vegas gunman to make his semi-automatic guns mimic the more rapid fire of automatic weapons.

“They give people access to these things, then they question after something horrible happens, but yet the answer is right there,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

About half of Americans said they think making it more difficult to buy a gun would reduce the number of mass shootings in the country, and slightly under half said it would reduce the number of murders.

About half felt it would reduce the number of accidental shootings, four out of 10 that it would reduce the number of suicides and only about a third felt it would reduce gang violence.

Alea Leonard, a 21-year-old data analyst and full-time student, said she doesn’t know whether US gun laws should be more strict, in part because different parts of the country have different experiences with crime.

“Here, I feel like everyone should be able to carry a .22 [calibre handgun] on them,” said Leonard, who lives in Orange County, California. Her neighbourhood, she said, has a high crime rate and in the five months since she moved there, a 14-year-old was shot in the back of the head.

She grew up in California, but spent some summers in Wyoming. She never before felt the need to have a gun but is now researching what it would take to carry one.

There are indications of a generational divide on the issue. Most of those in the survey who are younger than 30 said they believe stricter gun laws would result in fewer mass shootings, murders and accidental shootings.

The poll also found that most Americans disapprove of how President Donald Trump is handling gun control.

Trump is the first president since Ronald Reagan to address the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association. One of his sons has voiced strong support for easing the restrictions on gun silencers.

Some 59 per cent voiced disapproval with Trump’s handling of the issue, while 40 per cent said they approved. About half of Americans age 60 and over approve of how he is handling the issue, compared with fewer than 4 in 10 of those under 60. Politically, 79 per cent of people who identify as Republican approve of Trump’s handling of gun issues, while 61 per cent of independents and 89 per cent of Democrats disapprove. Sixty per cent of gun owners approve of Trump on the issue.

The poll also showed Americans divided over which party, if any, they trust to handle gun control. Nearly a third give Democrats the edge while 28 per cent prefer Republicans, and 31 per cent say they don’t trust either party.