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Most Voters Oppose Obama Acting Alone on Gun Control

Friday, January 08, 2016

Voters don’t approve of President Obama’s decision to go it alone with several gun control initiatives and don’t believe his actions will reduce the number of mass killings the country has experienced recently.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the government should only do what the president and Congress agree on when it comes to gun control. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 34% believe Obama should take action alone if Congress does not approve the initiatives he has proposed. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Only 21% think the president’s new executive order further extending federal government oversight of gun sales will reduce the number of mass shootings in America. Fifty-nine percent (59%) disagree and say the additional oversight will not reduce the number of these shootings. But 20% are not sure.

Voters remain closely divided on the need for additional gun control. Forty-five percent (45%) believe the United States needs stricter gun control laws, but 50% disagree. In surveys for the past several years, voters have tended to oppose further gun control laws except during brief periods following high-profile shootings like the ones at Virginia Tech and at a Connecticut elementary school.

However, most voters have long believed that the government needs to do a better job enforcing the gun laws already on the books.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on January 6-7, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Seventy-nine percent (79%) of voters think it is more important for Congress and the president to work together to achieve what’s best for the country rather than to stand for what they believe in.

But they are far more likely to blame Congress than the president for preventing that from happening.

Generally speaking, most voters continue to believe the federal government should only do what the president and Congress agree on. More specifically, they oppose Obama going it alone on issues like global warming, the nuclear deal with Iran and his plan to exempt up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. 

Women and those under 40 continue to favor additional gun control more than men and older voters do. But most women and younger voters still oppose the president going it alone on gun control.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Democrats think the country needs stricter gun control, but 76% of Republicans and 54% of voters not affiliated with either major party disagree.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of GOP voters and 59% of unaffiliateds believe the government should only do what the president and Congress agree on when it comes to gun control.

Democrats by a 56% to 34% margin think the president should take action alone on gun control if Congress does not approve the initiatives he has proposed. But even among voters in his own party, just 33% believe Obama’s new initiatives will reduce the number of mass killings in America.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of voters who favor stricter gun control say the president should take action on his own if necessary. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of voters who oppose additional gun control think the government should only do what the president and Congress agree on.

Most voters have said in surveys since the Newtown school shootings three years ago that the best way to prevent mass shootings is to focus more on the mentally ill rather than on increased gun control.

The president has singled out the National Rifle Association, the country’s leading gun rights organization, as the cause of Congress’ failure to approve additional gun control. But most Americans believe the NRA’s gun policies make this country safer, perhaps in part because they tend to think more gun control will only hurt law-abiding citizens.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of Americans with a gun in their household feel safer because that gun is there. This helps explain why guns have been selling at a record pace in recent weeks.

Just 34% of voters believe laws regarding the ownership of guns should be the responsibility of the federal government. Most see it as a state or local responsibility instead. Just 21% think it would be good for America if only government officials such as the police and military personnel were allowed to have guns.

A big problem for supporters of more gun control is that 62% of Americans don't trust the federal government to fairly enforce gun control laws.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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