Published January 31. 2013 9:30AM Updated January 31. 2013 9:32AM
A majority of state residents support a broad array of gun control measures and say the Newtown shootings have swayed their opinions, according to a new University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll.
Connecticut residents are more likely to call for gun restrictions than those polled nationwide among men and women, as well as all age groups, political affiliations, and education levels, the poll showed.
By wide margins, state residents favored banning military-style assault weapons and ammunition magazines with more than 10 bullets, preventing people with mental illness from buying guns, and creating a federal database to track gun sales, among other measures.
Overall in Connecticut, 64 percent favored stricter laws governing gun sales, while 28 percent said the laws should be kept as they are, according to the poll. Only 5 percent said the laws should be less strict.
In addition, 57 percent said the shooting deaths of 20 children and six educators Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School made them more likely to support gun control, while 35 percent said it made no difference. Nationally, 44 percent said the shooting made them more likely to support gun control.
The poll showed that Democrats, women, those over age 65, and those living in western Connecticut were the most likely to support increased gun measures. The biggest supporters of new gun restrictions were Democrats, 81 percent; working-class women, 80 percent; and those who have no gun owner in the household, 75 percent.
Among women in Connecticut, 73 percent said they favored stricter laws, while 55 percent of men said the same thing.
"There's a significant gender gap,'' said Jennifer Necci Dineen, the poll director at UConn. "We see it nationwide as well. When we look at gender and education together, there is an even wider gender gap.''
Although 80 percent of working-class women in Connecticut — defined as those without a college degree — support stricter gun control, only 47 percent of working-class men support it. In addition, 35 percent of working-class men say the gun laws should be kept as they are and 14 percent say the laws should be made less strict, according to the poll.
The Connecticut survey of 511 randomly selected adults was taken between Jan. 24 and 28. The poll, which covered both cellphones and land lines, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The field work for the survey was performed in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Republicans are essentially evenly divided about the next steps that should be taken after the Newtown massacre. Although 45 percent want stricter laws, 44 percent of Republicans say the laws should remain as they are now. Although 35 percent of Republicans surveyed strongly favor banning ammunition magazines with more than 10 bullets, 37 percent strongly oppose that measure.
At the legislature, the two top Republican leaders — Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and House Minority Leader Larry Cafero — have called for action. McKinney represents Newtown, and Cafero has voted twice in the past for an assault weapons ban in Connecticut.
Connecticut already has stricter gun laws than about 45 states. But some residents say the laws should be stricter still.
"Connecticut, being a blue state and having a lower percentage of gun owners than we see nationally, is probably a bit more predisposed to supporting this legislation,'' Dineen said Wednesday. "And Sandy Hook has hit home. Connecticut residents say Newtown has had an impact on them. That's true for Americans in other places, but not to the same degree. … People in Connecticut are still living with this more on a daily basis than are people in the rest of the country.''
With calls from Newtown residents for stricter gun control and with both chambers of the legislature controlled by Democrats, some officials assume that the General Assembly will be passing restrictions in the coming months. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters last week that he believes that changes will be made.
"I don't think it's going to be hard to pass recommendations in this legislature,'' Malloy said. "If you're asking me do I expect it's going to be terribly hard to pass new gun laws in Connecticut, the answer is no.''
When asked what should be done about violent video games, Malloy answered, "That's a question I don't have an easy answer to. I think labeling. I think educating families and parents is going to be very important to this.''
The survey showed the following:
-87 percent favor a law preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns.
-82 percent said that limiting public access to schools during the day would be effective in preventing mass shootings.
-81 percent "strongly favor'' background checks before anyone could buy firearms at a gun show and an additional 9 percent "somewhat favor'' for a total of 90 percent.
-73 percent favor "creating a federal government database to track all gun sales.''
-68 percent favor and 28 percent oppose banning military-style assault weapons.
-68 percent said that increasing the police presence at schools would be effective in preventing mass shootings.
-67 percent said that decreasing the gun violence in movies and on television would be effective in preventing mass shootings.
-64 percent favor and 31 percent oppose banning ammunition magazines with more than 10 bullets.
-64 percent said that adding bulletproof glass at schools would be effective, while 34 percent say it would not.
Regarding gun violence as depicted on television and in movies, the poll showed a wide disparity based on age. Among those aged 65 and over, 57 percent said that it would be "very effective'' to reduce the violence in the media, while only 21 percent of those aged 18 to 34 agreed.
The poll also showed that 69 percent believe that it would not be effective to have more teachers and administrators carrying guns inside schools, while 27 percent said that it would be effective. Only 13 percent of college-educated women believe that it would be effective.
In towns throughout the state, citizens driving past elementary schools have seen police cars parked outside more often than they did in the pre-Newtown days.
Jonathan Plucker, a UConn professor, notes that some of those officers now complete paperwork at the end of their shifts outside of schools, rather than at the traditional spot of police headquarters.
"It costs nobody anything,'' Plucker said in a statement. "It gets kids comfortable with the presence of a police officer just in case. It hardens the target, technically, and yet no one's arming teachers, no one has to lock the school down behind 16 bulletproof doors. Simple, cheap, quick, and they were able to do it the next day.''