Two-thirds of Americans still support the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but a narrow majority also supports passing stricter gun control laws, according to a new survey taken following the recent mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin.
The poll, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute between August 8-12, revealed three-quarters of people believe concealed guns should be banned from churches, government buildings and college campuses.
"In spite of recent debates over gun control, a strong majority of Americans believe that the constitutional right to own and carry a gun is as important as the right to free speech," said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, in a release accompanying the results. "Unsurprisingly, this belief is particularly pervasive among gun owners."
There is wide support for stronger enforcement of current laws and few people say laws should be loosened. But people also don't see an easy solution to preventing future gun violence. A minority of people support better mental health screening and support or placing more emphasis on God and morality, according to the poll.
Just 11 percent of people say allowing more private citizens to carry guns for protection is the most important thing that can be done to prevent mass shootings, according to the survey. But the poll also shows self-identified Tea Partiers are three times more likely to support that position.
And consistent with conventional wisdom, the poll found Democrats are three times more likely than Republicans to say stricter gun control laws and enforcement is the most important factor in preventing mass shootings.
Last month a shooter in Aurora, Colo., opened fire in a movie theater, killing 12 people and wounding 58 more. Last week, a gunman slayed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. And on Monday, three people were killed – including the gunman – after a man opened fire at on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas.
Both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have said more needs to be done to prevent such tragedies, but have stopped short of calling for additional laws.
"I don't think that this is a time for us to be passing new gun legislation," Romney said in a recent interview with Fortune Magazine. "I believe the laws we have in place, if enforced, are appropriate ... the fact that something is illegal does not keep a deranged person from doing a deranged thing."
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.