The finding in the Pew Research Center poll marks the first time since President Obama took office that more Americans prioritize gun control than the right to own guns. The poll notes that opinion was evenly divided in July, following a shooting at a Colorado movie theater. At that time, 47 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership, while 46 percent said it was more important to protect gun rights.
But, support for gun control remains lower than it did before Obama took office. In April 2008, 58 percent said it was more important to control gun ownership; just 37 percent prioritized protecting gun rights.
The survey also found wide partisan and demographic differences: Majorities of men, whites and Republicans say it is more important to protect gun rights. By contrast, most women, blacks, Democrats and those in the Northeast prioritize controlling gun ownership. In other regions, opinion is divided.
Division Over Ban on Semi-Automatic Guns. Opinion is divided over whether to ban semi-automatic guns – 44 percent favor such a ban, while 49 percent are opposed. Far more favor banning bullets designed to explode or penetrate bullet-proof vests -- 56 percent -- and high capacity ammunition clips -- 53 percent. However, there is widespread public opposition to a ban on all handguns: Two-thirds -- 67 percent -- oppose banning the possession of handguns, except by law enforcement officers.