New poll finds gun control support rising to levels seen just before 1994 assault weapons ban

A new CNN poll has found support for gun control has risen to levels similar to those just prior to the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Chris Enloe

Gun control has dominated national debate in the days since 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, especially because many of the Stoneman Douglas students have been so outspoken about the issue.

Now, it appears the dialogue has significantly shifted the public’s view of increased gun regulations. A new CNN poll found public support for more gun control has reached its highest levels in 25 years.

What did the poll find?

The poll, conducted Feb. 20-23 among a sample of 1,016 respondents,  found that 70 percent of American adults favor stricter gun control laws while just 27 are opposed.

The numbers mark a significant shift in public opinion on the issue, even after mass shootings. The same poll found that after the Las Vegas massacre last October, just 52 percent of American adults favored stricter gun control laws, while 44 percent didn’t.

And after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016, only 55 percent of adults told CNN they were in favor of increased gun regulations while 42 percent said they opposed them.

The last time CNN’s poll registered such high support for stricter gun control laws was in December 1993, when 70 percent of Americans said then they supported increased gun regulations.

It came at a time when Americans had recently experienced three tragic mass shootings, the first coming at a California school in 1989, the second being at a Texas restaurant in 1991 — which is still the sixth deadliest U.S. mass shooting in history — and the third coming in 1993 in San Francisco.

At the time, the frequency of mass shootings and public opinion on guns led Congress to act. Just nine months after the CNN poll in December 1993, Congress passed the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and then-President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law.

The ban lasted 10 years and mostly addressed cosmetic features of firearms, not differences that make some firearms more lethal than others, such as caliber and velocity variances.

Will Congress act again?

Possibly. President Donald Trump and many Republicans have signaled they are willing to give way on strengthening some firearm regulations. Trump said last week that he is looking into raising the age for long gun purchases to 21, in addition to directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ban bump stocks and seeking ways to improve the federal background check system.

But it’s the outspoken students who were victims of the tragic shooting who are likely making the biggest inroads on gun control. For more than a week now, a handful of Stoneman Douglas students have taken their anti-NRA message to TV and radio stations and it’s making a difference.

Meanwhile, many Americans are likely just plain tired of school shootings and want a solution — any solution — to prevent the next one.

No matter which way you slice it, it appears the gun control debate will rage on for the next few weeks. Whether anything actually comes of it remains to be seen.