The issue of firearms has, at times, taken a high-profile position in United States culture and politics. Michael Bouchard, Assistant Director/Field Operations of ATF, estimates that 5,000 gun shows take place each year in the United States. Incidents of gun violence in 'gun-free' school zones have ignited debate involving gun politics in the United States.
Support for gun control in America has been steadily dropping. Currently, the American public strongly opposes attempts to ban gun ownership, and is divided on attempts to limit gun ownership. A 2008 Gallup poll revealed that 28% of the population supported a total ban on handguns the lowest level since the poll was first taken in 1959 (when support for a total ban was 60% of the population). This same poll revealed that 49% of Americans in 2008 preferred more restrictive gun laws, compared to 78% when the question was first asked in the 1990 version of the poll. A 2009 CNN poll found even lower levels of support for gun laws: in this poll, only 39% favored more restrictive laws. The poll indicates that the drop in support (compared to 2001 polls) came from self-identified Independents, with levels of opposition among Democrats and Republicans remaining consistent.
There is a sharp divide between gun-rights proponents and gun-control proponents. This leads to intense political debate over the effectiveness of firearm regulation.
On the whole, Democrats are far more likely to support "stricter" gun control than are Republicans. According to a 2010 Harris Interactive survey, a 70% to 7% majority of Democrats favors "stricter" rather than "less strict" gun control, whereas Republicans are split 22% "stricter" to 42% "less strict" with 27% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats opting for "neither".
The division of beliefs may be attributable to the fact that Republicans are more likely to own guns, according to General Social Surveys conducted during the last 35 years. The graphs, below, show that gun ownership has generally declined; however, Republicans especially men are far more likely to own guns.[