A majority of Americans now reject new restrictions on the purchase of so-called assault weapons, according to a new poll that indicates growing fears of terrorism, and lack of trust in the government’s ability to respond, are fueling a new interest in firearms.
More Americans think carrying guns is a better response to terrorism than think gun control would help, according to an ABC-Washington Post survey released Wednesday. And 53 percent — a clear majority — say they oppose renewing the ban on military-style rifles. That’s the highest level of support for weapons since 1994, when Congress passed the sweeping Assault Weapons Ban.
Erich Pratt, a spokesman for Gun Owners of America, said President Obama’s push for new gun controls helps explain a renewed interest in firearms.
“President Obama’s feckless behavior has destroyed people’s confidence that the government can protect them from terrorism,” Mr. Pratt said. “That’s why Americans are buying guns and getting concealed carry permits in record numbers.” Overall, just 22 percent of those in the poll said they were confident that the government can prevent a “lone-wolf” attack, and only 43 percent said they were confident the government can prevent a large-scale attack.
Those most worried about terrorism were also the ones most likely to consider guns a viable answer to growing uncertainty.
A poll memo from Langer Research also said Mr. Obama’s overall job approval rating — which was at 45 percent in the survey — is the “single strongest factor” in people’s views on an assault weapons ban.
Mr. Obama’s approval rating was down 6 points since October, with 51 percent disapproving of his performance. On the terrorist threat from the Islamic State in particular, 59 percent disapproved of the president’s performance.
The polling is a blow to Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats, who in the wake of several terrorist attacks have called for stiffer gun restrictions.
More than 100 Democratic House members helped roll out new legislation Wednesday to ban military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“It is unconscionable that we continue to allow military-style weapons to be bought and sold while mass shootings are growing more common,” said Rep. David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat who introduced the measure.
Similar proposals failed after the 2012 Newtown school massacre, and the new polling signals the environment has gotten worse, not better, for gun control advocates. Support for an assault weapons ban has dropped 11 points since 2013, down to just 45 percent now.
“Our God-given rights certainly don’t depend upon what the polls say,” Mr. Pratt said. “But it’s nice when you have the majority of the American public that understands why the Second Amendment is so important.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that advocates who favor stricter controls need to make their voices heard if they expect to see action on Capitol Hill.
“We continue to believe that we will see congressional action once the intensity of the argument on the side of those who support gun safety measures has been made clear to members of Congress,” Mr. Earnest said.