Shooting attacks don’t impact gun attitudes

By Jon Dougherty

The sniper attacks that killed 10 people, injured three more and partially paralyzed the Washington area for nearly three weeks had little impact on Americans’ attitudes about guns.

Indeed, according to a newly released Gallup poll, what has changed is the public’s perception of the effectiveness of police.

The survey, taken Oct. 14-17 – before police arrested suspects John Allen Muhammad, 42, and John Lee Malvo, 17 – showed that Americans are as “closely divided” now over whether gun sales should be more strict as they were a year ago.

A “bare majority” of Americans, or 51 percent, said laws covering the sale of firearms should be more strict, which is about the same as in October 2001, said Gallup. About one-third, or 36 percent, say laws should remain the same, while about one in 10 favor relaxing them.

Those who favor a ban on civilian possession of handguns have remained constant over the past several years, at between 32 and 38 percent, compared to between 59 and 65 percent opposed. Currently, 32 percent are in favor of a ban, while 65 percent oppose it – about the same as in August 2000, said Gallup analysts.

Gallup also found no change in the past year in the number of people who say they have a gun in their homes. Forty-one percent said they have a gun in their home, compared to 40 percent last year.

Women much more than men favor stricter gun-control measures, the survey found, while men are more likely to report having a gun in the home.

Meanwhile, 58 percent of Americans say they have confidence in police – down from 66 percent last year and down even further from 70 percent three years ago.

“What accounts for this recent decline in confidence in the police cannot be determined for certain,” analysts said. While attitudes may have been tied somewhat to the fact that, when the poll was taken, no sniper suspects had been arrested, analysts say it also could be “a reflection of law-enforcement efforts in the fight against terrorism over the past year.”

Despite the slip, confidence in law enforcement over the long term is up from levels seen in the 1980s and 1990s, when national violent crime rates were higher.

The results were polled from a selected national sample of 1,002 adults over the age of 18. The survey has a plus or minus 3 percent margin of error with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Click here for WND’s coverage of the Washington-area sniper attacks.

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