Though more than two-thirds of Americans think criminals can obtain
handguns far too easily, just over half say that the enforcement of
existing gun laws would work better to curb illegal gun use than writing
new ones.

Portrait of America
analysts, detailing the results of a new poll on gun-control laws and the Brady Bill, said 82 percent of the American people believe it is too easy for criminals to purchase a handgun. Sixty-one percent said they believe it is too easy for children to purchase handguns.

Nevertheless, POA said, “Americans don’t think the federal government’s most high-profile attempt to stop illegal gun purchases and reduce gun violence — the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act — is working.”

Just over half of those polled — 51 percent — believe the act has been ineffective at reducing violent crime, and 56 percent believe it has had no impact on reducing the number of homicides in the U.S.

The Brady Act established mandatory background checks and waiting periods for anyone seeking to purchase a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer. A recent study found, however, that the law had done little to reduce gun homicides, though that claim is being disputed by the Clinton administration and Attorney General Janet Reno.

Whatever the truth, however, the population is nearly evenly split over whether the law has accomplished what it set out to do.

While more Republicans surveyed — 59 percent — believe the law has fallen short of its goals, 44 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents think the Brady Act has failed, POA said.

Meanwhile, rather than working up new gun-control laws, most Americans — 58 percent — believe better enforcement of existing laws “is a better way to reduce handgun violence,” said the poll.

The same number believe imposing longer jail terms will also work, and 50 percent believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent to gun-related crime, analysts said.

The poll
also measured Americans’ attitudes towards strengthening gun ownership rules, and how most felt about requiring handgun registration.

Additionally, respondents were asked if outright bans of sales of handguns would reduce violence.

Rasmussen Research conducted the survey of 1,000 adults on Aug. 23. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

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