- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2016

A majority of Americans think it is more important to protect the right to keep and bear arms than it is to control gun ownership, according to Pew Research Center polling, which showed voters’ general views on guns vary widely based on whether they support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president.

Fifty-two percent of the general public placed a greater emphasis on protecting gun rights, while 46 percent said it’s more important to control ownership, according to the Pew survey.

In terms of registered voters, 90 percent of Trump supporters favored protecting gun rights, compared with 9 percent who placed more of an emphasis on controlling gun ownership. Meanwhile, 79 percent of Clinton supporters said they prioritize controlling ownership, compared with 19 percent who sided with emphasizing gun rights.

The 70-point gap between the major-party presidential candidates’ supporters who prioritize the control of gun ownership over protecting gun rights is the widest in more than a decade.

In May 2000, there was a 20-point gap between the percentage of supporters of Democratic nominee Al Gore (66 percent) and supporters of Republican George W. Bush (46 percent) who placed more of an emphasis on controlling gun ownership.

That gap between the shares of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates’ supporters who emphasized controlling ownership increased to 41 points by April 2012 (62 percent to 21 percent) and to 70 points today (79 percent to 9 percent).

In the new poll, a majority of the public — 58 percent — also said gun ownership in the country does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, compared with 37 percent who said it does more to put people’s safety at risk.

That question also depended much on who was asked. Eighty-nine percent of Trump supporters said gun ownership does more to protect safety, compared with 9 percent who said it does more to put people at risk. For Clinton supporters, 65 percent said it was more likely to endanger personal safety, compared with 32 percent who said it’s more likely to protect people from crime.

About eight in 10 voters overall did say they support background checks for all private and gun show sales, as well as preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns, with solid majorities of both Trump and Clinton supporters favoring both measures.

Eighty percent of Clinton supporters and 72 percent of Trump supporters also said they favor barring gun purchases by people on the federal no-fly or watch lists.

Mr. Trump said in June he planned to speak to the National Rifle Association, which has endorsed him, about preventing people on such lists from buying guns.

His backers were less supportive than Mrs. Clinton’s on other specific gun control measures tested in the poll. Mr. Trump has said Mrs. Clinton wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment, which the Clinton campaign denies.

Fifty-four percent of all voters said they favor banning so-called assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Those measures were backed by about three-quarters of Clinton supporters but just 34 percent of Trump supporters.

About two-thirds of all voters — 66 percent — also said they support creating a federal database to track gun sales. Eighty-five percent of Clinton supporters said they back such a database, compared with 46 percent of Trump supporters.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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