A strong majority of Americans support banning the kind of semi-automatic rifle that was used in the February 14 mass shooting that left 17 people dead.
Sixty-one percent of Americans said that the AR-15, which gun-control advocates consider an assault weapon, should be banned from purchase, compared to 39 percent who said that adults who pass background checks should be allowed to buy it, according to the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris survey.
AR-15 is categorized in some American states as an “assault weapon” for having a detachable high-capacity magazine and other military-style features, and because the rifle is designed to kill a large number of people quickly.
The suspect in the Parkland, Florida, shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, purchased an AR-15 about a year ago, and used it in the massacre.
AR-15 rifles had been used in some of the deadliest shootings in the past few years in the United States, including a concert in October 2017 in Las Vegas, a nightclub in June 2016 in Orlando, and an elementary school in December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.
The February 14 rampage was the second-deadliest shooting at a US public school. The deadliest was the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
According to the poll, 36 percent of Americans said banning assault weapons would do the most to prevent mass shootings, while 32 percent said enhancing school security and another 32 percent said increasing commitment to mental health issues would do so.
“The public wants a solution not just to guns but to school safety and that means better mental health programs, greater security and some gun restrictions as well,” said Harvard CAPS-Harris co-director Mark Penn. “They want action on all fronts.”
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an assault-weapons law which outlawed AR-15. The ban, however, expired in 2004, and sales of the rifle skyrocketed during the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.
Following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012, some lawmakers tried to restore the 1994 ban but they failed.
Now again there are again growing calls from Democrats for an assault weapons ban, but not many are advocating for a blanket ban on semi-automatic weapons.
President Donald Trump and most members of Congress do not currently support an assault weapons ban.
President Trump once supported a ban on assault weapons but changed his position as he campaigned for the GOP nomination in 2016. The White House says Trump does not currently support an assault weapons ban.
The United States has a powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association of America (NRA), which contributes heavily to the election campaigns of most members of Congress, particularly Republicans.
The gun lobby also showers money on some Democrats but its main beneficiaries are Republicans, such as House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Rob Portman of Ohio and Ted Cruz of Texas.
It also poured into tens of millions in the 2016 election campaign of Trump, who is now suggesting arming teachers as a way to stop more rampages.