PRINCETON, N.J., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The shooting of 20 people in Tucson prompted calls for tougher gun laws but Americans' support for them has been slipping for decades, the Gallup Poll reports.
The number in favor of making gun laws "more strict" dropped from 78 percent in 1990 to 62 percent in 1995 and 51 percent in 2007. In the most recent reading, Gallup in 2010 found the figure has fallen to 44 percent. Since 2009, in fact, a slight majority has said laws should either stay the same or be loosened.
The decline in gun-control support halted for a time after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre but the effect was temporary. Banning handgun possession by private citizens, which was endorsed by 60 percent of Americans in 1959, had only 29 percent backing last year.
Gallup also reports more polarization over the last decade, with Republicans more likely to call themselves conservative rather than moderate and Democrats more likely to call themselves liberal. And a record 59 percent of Americans say the federal government "has too much power."
Gallup says its polls have a maximum margin of error of 2 to 4 percentage points.
In the Tucson attack at a political event Saturday, six people were killed and 14, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were injured. A 22-year-old man was arrested and a semiautomatic pistol seized.