Shifts in public opinion are raising the stakes for lawmakers and the president as the effort to tighten gun laws intensifies in Congress this week.
More Republicans now see loose gun laws as a factor that is fueling mass shootings, an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds – and more Democrats are ready to blame Joe Biden for not getting something done about it.
The combination raises a tantalizing possibility: A quarter-century since the last big gun law was passed, could a significant deal on guns finally be reached?
The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on an Democratic package that would tighten gun laws, but the proposal has little chance of passing the Senate. In the Senate, a bipartisan group has been negotiating behind closed doors, but some Democrats fear the proposal may not go far enough.
On complicated and divisive issues – restricting guns and overhauling immigration, for two – the safe bet in Washington is always on inaction. The result of endless debate is more likely to be talking points drafted than a solution enacted.
That said, in our new poll:
The percentage of Republicans who said "loose gun laws" had at least some responsibility for mass shootings rose by double digits, to 43% from 27% in a March 2021 poll. That could make GOP lawmakers feel more comfortable about compromising.
The percentage of Democrats who said Biden had at least some responsibility jumped by double digits since last year, too, to 33% from 20%. That could raise pressure on the White House to get something – anything – done.
Americans put even more blame on Congress: 49% held congressional Republicans responsible; 44% held congressional Democrats responsible.
The online poll of 1,117 adults, which has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.6 points, was taken Friday through Monday, the worst weekend of gun violence of the year. At least 17 people were killed nationwide over the three-day weekend. There were at least a dozen shootings that killed or injured four or more people.
More: Half of Republicans support stricter gun laws, a double-digit jump in a year
"You don't feel safe anywhere," said Kaye Hendrickson, 80, of Hardy, Iowa, population 57. She was among those surveyed. "I don't understand how in this country, where we have freedom – where it's so much worse than every free country in the world, that you have to worry about, wherever you go, you might be shot."
However, the poll found some signs that Americans were becoming accustomed to living in an era of gun violence, or at least believe it's not going to happen to them.
By 6-1 (81%-14%), those polled said they have felt very or mostly safe in public spaces over the past few weeks. That's a significant increase since last year, when respondents reported feeling safe by 3-1 (67%-23%).
Only a fraction have taken steps in their daily lives as a result of the shootings:
One in four, 25%, have talked with their families about what to do if there's a shooting in their area. That's nine percentage points higher than a year ago.
One in five, 20%, say they have avoided shopping in crowded places, four points lower than last year.
18% have skipped public events where there will be a lot of people, also down four points.
7% have contacted public officials asking for new laws to prevent mass shootings, down two points. That included 10% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans.
Most Democrats reported taking at least one of these four steps, but nearly two-thirds of Republicans, 64%, said they hadn't taken any of them.
Contributing: Kenneth Tran
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shifting poll numbers on guns could pressure Biden, GOP to land a deal
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