Support for stricter gun laws appears to be fading as the first anniversary of the Connecticut school shootings in Newtown approaches, according to a new poll unveiled on the same day some of the 911 tapes from the Sandy Hook shootings were released.
Forty-nine percent of Americans say they support stricter gun laws and 50 percent oppose them, according to the CNN/ORC International survey. That's down from 55 percent who supported stricter laws in a January CNN poll, weeks after gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Then, 44 percent opposed stricter laws.In a CNN poll from April, 53 percent supported stricter laws, and 45 percent opposed them. That survey was conducted just before a bill to expand gun-purchase background checks failed in the U.S. Senate.
Since January, the percentage of those who say they "strongly favor" stricter gun laws has declined from 37 percent to 31 percent, and the percentage who strongly oppose them has risen from 27 percent to 32 percent.
The poll of 843 adults by ORC International was conducted from Nov. 18 to 20 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
It was released as some of the 911 calls from the Dec. 14, 2012 incident were made public Wednesday.
"It sounds like there are gunshots in the hallway — I'm a teacher in the school," a woman can be heard saying in one of the calls.
"Keep everybody calm, keep everybody down, get everybody away from the windows, OK?" the dispatcher says.
"There's still shooting going on — please," a man says in another recording, followed by repeated banging noises. "Still — still going on."
Since the failed vote on background checks in April, Congress has shown little appetite for revisiting legislation specifically dealing with guns, aside from the House this week renewing a law banning undetectable plastic firearms. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has vowed to push a broader bill ahead of a Monday deadline to renew the ban, first passed in 1988.
Mr. Schumer and his allies say the law needs to expand and require that metal parts in plastic-and-metal guns be nonremovable so as to make all guns detectable by airport or other building security checks. But it's unclear to what extent his fellow Senate Democrats want another fight over firearms ahead of midterm elections next year.
He said Tuesday that if the push for the broader bill fails, he'll seek to simply pass the House bill and continue to work on it once the ban is renewed.
Still, the recent suicide of a Virginia state senator's son has brought the issue of mental health back to the forefront in the debate.
Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican, said recently he intends to propose legislation dealing with mental health. He cited the case of Austin "Gus" Deeds, the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Bath Democrat, who underwent a psychiatric evaluation last month but was released after officials couldn't find him a bed in a treatment facility. The next day, Gus Deeds stabbed his father, who was the Democratic nominee for Virginia governor in 2009, before taking his own life with a rifle.
Since then, Mr. Deeds told The Recorder newspaper in Monterey, Va., he's going to devote himself to the issue so that "other families don't have to go through what we are living."
In Connecticut, a report by State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III in Danbury, Conn., said Lanza had mental health problems but, nearly a year after the December shooting, it is impossible to discern a specific motive for the attack.
"It is important to note that it is unknown, what contribution, if any, the shooter's mental health issues made to his attack on [Sandy Hook]," the report said. "Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior."
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