California women are ready to pull the trigger to crack down on guns.
A little more than half the state's male voters support tighter gun control, but the numbers soar to nearly seven of every 10 female voters, according to a Field Poll released today.
Mark DiCamillo, poll director, said the numbers reflect women's role as caregivers and anger over the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults.
"When you're looking at gun violence in which no one is safe, not even young kids in school, it reaches the point where women are just saying, 'You've got to do something' at a greater extent than men," he said.
Overall, 61 percent of voters surveyed said tighter gun controls are more important than protecting the right of Americans to own guns.
The numbers were four percentage points above the highest total recorded by three Field Polls on the issue between 1999 and 2002.
This year's nearly 2-to-1 support for gun control hides a deep partisan split. Eighty percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independent voters want tighter laws, but 65 percent of Republicans say no.
Geraldine Cargile, a 91-year-old Manteca resident contacted by pollsters, said that tighter gun controls would weaken Americans' ability to fight back against armed assailants.
"We've got the Second Amendment, and we need to enforce it," said Cargile, a longtime homemaker. "We've got to have our guns."
But Linda Holmes, 69, of Fresno, said existing gun controls aren't working very well so the state should try something different.
"I believe that we have the right to protect ourselves, but on the other hand, it's like the wild, wild West out there," said Holmes, who once worked helping college students obtain aid.
Cargile and Holmes, split on imposing more gun controls, also disagree on why their gender outpaces men in favoring such measures.
"They're just not using their heads," Cargile said. "I think they're probably afraid of a gun."
But Holmes said women take the issue personally when children are at risk.
"I think sometimes women are more logical," she said. "Men get angry, and the testosterone kicks in."
Both sexes agree that teachers should not be trained to carry concealed weapons at schools -- 68 percent of all voters objected -- but twice as many men than women are willing to give the proposal a try, 38 percent to 19 percent.
A substantial gender gap was evident in four of five legislative gun-control proposals cited by the Field Poll, all of which received majority support overall:
-- Increasing funding for confiscating guns from convicted felons: 83 percent support overall, with no split between men and women.
-- Requiring ammunition buyers to get a permit and undergo a background check: 75 percent support overall -- 82 percent from women, 68 percent from men.
-- Raising taxes on ammunition sales to generate money for violence protection: 61 percent support overall -- 69 percent from women, 51 percent from men.
-- Banning gun magazines containing more than 10 rounds of ammunition: 58 percent support overall -- 66 percent from women, 47 percent from men.
-- Barring sale of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines for quick reloading: 57 percent support overall -- 63 percent from women, 50 percent from men.
California voters mirror trends in a recent national poll by the Pew Research Center, but the state's residents are more liberal about imposing tighter gun controls -- more Democrats and women support it, and fewer Republican oppose it.
California's voter registration tilts strongly left, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 14 percentage points. Women dominate the majority party, totaling 57 percent of California's Democrats, according to DiCamillo.
The National Rifle Association is viewed more unfavorably than favorably among California voters, 43 percent to 37 percent. Most Republicans but few Democrats applaud the NRA, 63 percent to 23 percent, respectively, the Field Poll found.
NRA officials declined to comment Monday.
Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said the Field Poll's gun-control findings are inflated by what he called temporary reaction to the Connecticut school massacre and by questions that do not explain proposals in detail.
"When polls show that people want more gun control, every time we've seen that, when we explain what gun control means, the numbers flip-flop 180 degrees," Paredes said.
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