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There's a wealth of new data in this morning's new Gallup poll, which tracks Americans' opinion toward gun control. First up: the percentage of Americans who want an outright ban on certain weapons — including handguns and assault rifles — has fallen, but the percentage of those who want to place further restrictions on the sale of guns, and ensure better enforcement of those rules, has risen dramatically. Of Americans polled December 19-22, a whopping 58 percent said they'd like to see it become harder to buy a gun — a double-digit jump from last year, when just 44 percent gave that answer. This is the highest percentage recorded by Gallup since 2004:

The new information puts an interesting twist on the gun control debate sparked anew by the Newtown shootings. According to Gallup, Americans overwhelmingly favor (74% to 24%) the ability to purchase and use handguns, many of which are designed to be easily concealed on one's person, and slightly favor (51% to 44%) the same for assault rifles, such as the Bushmaster AR-15. But it seems Americans readily distinguish the manufacture of weapons from their subsequent distribution and sale. This country prefers, in other words, to restrict their circulation (within the normal, non-military populace) but not their existence. For example, Gallup asked about a widely-acknowledged loophole in about 40 percent of gun sales — basically, you can sell and purchase weapons at private gun shows without submitting to a background check — and some 92 percent of Americans favored closing it.

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