The Gun Control Conundrum

Legislative efforts in Congress and individual states will focus on banning assault rifles, but they face an uphill battle because of fierce opposition by NRA and mixed views by Americans.A spate of polls have been released in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting and while they reflect some shift in American attitudes, they don't necessarily reveal a clear consensus of what should be done.

Vice President Joe Biden says he will deliver his gun recommendations to President Obama this week. Meanwhile, the Congressional and state legislative bill hoppers are filling up with various gun legislation proposals, including renewal of an expired federal assault rifle ban.

A USA Today poll showed more Americans now favor passing new gun laws, but they don't appear to support an assault rifle ban. An ABC poll indicated a 52-44 percent split in favor of banning semi-automatic weapons. The Pew Research Center found 65 percent of Americans believe assault weapons make the country more dangerous, but 49 percent nevertheless oppose banning semi-automatic guns.

The same mixed message exists about handguns or gun control more generally.

People seem to support stricter enforcement of existing gun laws, especially for people with criminal records or who suffer from mental illness. That could mean proposals to strengthen the national database used when someone attempts to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. There also could be traction to push all states to submit information to the database about persons with mental illnesses. And Americans may be okay with limiting the size of high-capacity ammunition clips.

Beyond that, it is hard to see a clear path, at least in Congress facing the teeth of an enraged gun owner community, for significant gun laws to pass.

It seems equally unlikely that the idea lofted by the National Rifle Association — to post armed guards in all public schools — will make it through the legislative hoops, even though there has been a surprising amount of interest in NRA's proposal in some parts of the country.

What emerges from this picture is that gun control versus gun rights has become as an entrenched polarizing issue as abortion. This isn't really new, but it is somewhat baffling because of the intense coverage of the Sandy Hook massacre.

NRA and other gun rights officials have stepped up their offensive against an assault weapon ban and the so-called gun show loophole. One NRA official called this "phony legislation" that will have no effect in curbing violence. A CNN poll suggests that most Americans tend to agree and believe more "shootings like the one in Connecticut will happen again regardless of what action is taken by government and society."

If statistics are correct, the one certain thing that the Sandy Hook shootings accomplished was to spur more gun sales.