‘Red Flag’ Laws Like NJ’s Popular, What About Taking All ‘Assault’ Weapons?
Most Americans support gun control measures such as New Jersey's recently enacted "red flag" law, comprehensive background checks for all gun purchasers, and an all-out ban on the future sale of assault weapons.
But there's more opposition than support for taking assault weapons out of the hands of people who already possess them.
In a national poll released Monday by Monmouth University, a stark difference of opinion was recorded between gun owners and non-owners on most gun control measures. Overall opinions have not shifted much since some of the same questions were asked in March 2018, despite a handful of mass fatal shootings that were publicized nationwide in the months since then.
The poll didn't specifically define "assault" weapons, though the term is often used to describe various kinds of rifles. Definitions vary by jurisdiction; New Jersey specifically bans more than 50 models of firearms as well as weapons that include certain features, or combinations of features. A federal ban on certain firearms classified as assault weapons expired in 2004.
"People are now fairly entrenched in their position of whether they're for or against different measures of gun control," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "I think we've reached what's called a saturation point, where any of these new events that happened can't move the needle any more than it's already been moved."
As was the case a year and a half ago, 83% of Americans said they either strongly or somewhat support comprehensive background checks for all gun sales, even those that occur privately between two individuals. A national gun ownership database to register all guns in the country received 62% support, compared to 65% last March.
At 65%, a majority of the polled National Rifle Association members said they support background checks, and 20% of members are in favor of a national database. More than 90% of non-owners support comprehensive background checks, and 76% like the idea of a national gun registry.
From NRA member to non-owner, and from Democrat to Republican, there is broad support for establishing red flag laws that can temporarily take guns away from someone considered a danger to themselves or others. New Jersey's version of the law took effect September 1.
New Jersey's gun laws are considered to be among the strongest in the nation. Another four were signed in July. It was announced on Monday that the state-funded New Jersey Center on Gun Violence Research at Rutgers University would be launching eight new studies on gun violence and prevention.
According to the Monmouth poll, 56% of Americans support banning the future sale of assault weapons. Most Democrats (86%) and Americans who do not currently own guns (69%) like the idea, but it receives much less support from Republicans (35%), NRA members (27%), and non-NRA gun owners (42%).
More than half of the country opposes a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons. It gets majority support from nonowners, as well as Democrats, but few Republicans and gun owners are on board with the proposal.
"There are a number of presidential candidates, including New Jersey's Cory Booker, who have said that at this point, banning the sale of assault weapons is not going to help us because there are too many on the street already," Murray said.