By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The percentage of Americans favoring tough gun regulations rose significantly after the mass killings at a Connecticut elementary school last Friday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Monday.
The poll found that 50 percent of those surveyed after the shootings agreed that "gun ownership should have strong regulations or restrictions." Among those surveyed before the killings the number was 42 percent.
The percentages of Americans favoring background checks on gun buyers and limits on the sales of automatic weapons also increased after the shootings, according the poll.
For the survey, 1,395 people were interviewed online from December 11-13, before the shootings. Another 1,198 people were surveyed after the shootings, from December 14-17.
Twenty children aged 6 or 7 and six adults were killed in the slaughter at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Two more adults also died - the mother of the 20-year-old gunman and the gunman himself, who authorities said shot himself as police responding to reports of gunfire converged on the school.
The massacre has led President Barack Obama and some congressional leaders to reconsider what has been a largely hands-off approach to gun control in recent years. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a fellow Democrat who has been reluctant to back gun restrictions, have said that more must be done to prevent such tragedies.
The Reuters/Ipsos survey found that the percentage of Americans who strongly supported "laws requiring background checks before allowing the sale of a firearm," rose by 7 points, from 77 percent before the shootings to 84 percent afterward.
The percentage who strongly supported "laws limiting the sale of automatic weapons (such as machine guns)," increased by 6 points, from 54 percent before the shootings to 60 percent afterward.
Adam Lanza, the gunman in the school shootings, carried three guns, including a semi-automatic rifle.
U.S. lawmakers have not approved a major new federal gun law since 1994, and a ban on certain semi-automatic rifles known as assault weapons expired in 2004.
The questions polled before the shootings had a credibility interval, which is similar to a margin of error, of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Those done after the shootings had a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.2 points. (Editing by David Lindsey and Jackie Frank)