Two years after the massacre of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, prompting widespread calls for gun safety reform, Americans are more pro-gun than they've been in decades, a Pew Research Center survey finds.
For the first time since Pew began asking the question in 1993, a majority of Americans believe that it is more important to protect the right to own a gun than to control gun ownership. According to the poll, 52 percent say that gun rights should trump gun control, while 46 percent think that gun control is more important than gun rights. Support for gun control has waxed and waned in the poll for years, hitting a peak of 66 percent in 1999, the year 13 people were killed in the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
A slight majority of Americans also backed gun control over gun rights in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, which occurred two years ago this coming Sunday. In a January 2013 Pew poll, 51 percent of respondents said it was more important to control gun ownership, while 45 percent said that gun rights were more important.
The latest survey found that a majority of respondents believe guns keep people safe; 57 percent said that guns protect people from becoming crime victims, while only 38 percent said firearms put people's safety at risk. Studies show that households with guns are at substantially higher risk for homicide and suicide.
While the poll indicates that support for gun control in the abstract has dipped, Americans continue to support specific gun safety reforms when asked about them. A Quinnipiac poll released in July found that by a margin of 92 to 7 percent, Americans favor background checks for gun purchases.
Despite similarly lopsided numbers after the Sandy Hook shooting, Congress has yet to implement even popular gun safety reforms. In the face of fierce resistance by the National Rifle Association, a background checks bill died in the U.S. Senate in April 2013. At the state level, most gun laws enacted since Sandy Hook have actually expanded gun rights.
As the Newtown anniversary draws near, another grim milestone approaches: there have now been almost 100 school shootings since Sandy Hook.