Americans are less interested than ever in imposing an “assault weapons” ban.
Those are the results of a Monmouth University poll released on Monday. That poll found 49 percent of Americans opposed a ban on the sale of assault weapons while 46 percent supported one, and six percent were unsure. That marks a nine-point decline in support and a seven-point increase in opposition since Monmouth asked the same question in June 2022.
“Despite continued incidents of mass shootings, public support for banning assault weapons has dipped,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a press release.
The poll is just the latest to show a decline in support for the policy, which targets guns like the AR-15 and AK-47. It indicates Americans are growing increasingly skeptical of new broad-based restrictions on different kinds of guns, despite their presence in high-profile mass shootings. The deterioration of public opinion toward assault weapons bans may negatively affect the recent renaissance the policy has enjoyed in recent years and may be why several states where Democrats hold complete control, such as Colorado and New Mexico, failed to pass one this year.
Monmouth’s poll comes a few months after an ABC News/Washington Post survey found a majority of Americans now oppose a ban on the sale of assault weapons, often defined as semi-automatic centerfire guns capable of accepting detachable magazines and featuring banned cosmetics like pistol grips or telescoping stocks. A Quinnipiac University poll from the same time frame found more Americans opposed a ban than supported one. The downward trend in support has persisted even after mass shootings that have captured public attention and House Democrats passing the first proposed federal ban in nearly 20 years.
A poll from The Economist/YouGov has been one of the only consistent outliers from major polling firms on the issue. It shows support for a ban at over 60 percent. Although, that poll further confuses already-nebulous terminology by asking about a ban on “assault rifles,” which are traditionally defined as being capable of automatic fire–unlike common AR-15s.
While gun-control advocates and President Joe Biden (D.) have continued to pursue a federal assault weapons ban as their top policy solution for mass shootings, the popularity of the guns they are seeking to remove from store shelves has skyrocketed. Late last month, a Washington Post/Ipsos poll found tens of millions of Americans own an AR-15.
It isn’t the only estimate that puts the number of legally-owned ARs in the tens of millions.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade group, estimated there were over 24.4 million AR-15s and similar rifles in circulation last year. Georgetown professor William English found in his 2021 National Firearms Survey that “30.2% of gun owners, about 24.6 million people, indicated that they have owned an AR-15 or similarly styled rifle.”
Monmouth’s survey found political affiliation significantly impacted whether a respondent supported banning assault weapons. A majority of Democrats support such a ban, while a majority of Republicans and independents oppose it. Similarly, liberals support a ban, but conservatives and moderates do not.
Breakdowns along age and racial lines were apparent too. The 55+ age group was the only one to feature majority support for a ban. White Americans were more likely to oppose a ban than support one, while a bare majority of non-White Americans support a ban.
Support for other gun-control policies fared better in the Monmouth poll, though slight declines were present. 81 percent of adults said they support universal background checks, down two points from 2022 and accompanied by the caveat that only 28 percent believe it should be accomplished through an executive order. Support for a federal “Red Flag” law came in at 72 percent, down three points. The split on requiring permits for those who want to conceal a gun in public remained steady, with 56 percent supporting them and 41 percent opposed.
Monmouth conducted the poll of a random sample of 805 adults between March 16th and 20th.