The public remains divided -- and deeply so along party lines -- on the issue of gun control and gun rights. Most Americans say tragic events like the shooting are just the isolated acts of troubled individuals, and not a reflection of broader problems in American society.
Opinion about gun control has been split since April 2009, but this marked a substantial change in attitudes from previous years in which majorities of Americans consistently prioritized gun control over gun rights. See a breakdown of opinion about gun control across numerous demographic categories.
Public attitudes on two contentious national issues -- gun control and abortion -- have moved in a more conservative direction over the past year. In both cases, the changes have largely been driven by shifts in attitudes among men.
Nearly three-quarters of Republicans (73%) oppose a ban on handgun sales, a view shared by 59% of independents and just half of Democrats.
Six-in-ten Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 32% give priority to protecting Americans' right to own guns. But a 55% majority opposes a ban on the sale of handguns.
The rampage at the Blacksburg, Va., campus touched a nerve over gun safety on college campuses, including among Virginia lawmakers who had recently sparred over a firearms ban.
Surveys taken before the Virginia Tech shootings showed that Americans had become less disposed to support gun control measures than they were in the years surrounding the Columbine school shootings in 1999.