Polls on handgun bans:

The Sunday Washington Post has an interesting collection of articles previewing Tuesday's oral argument in District of Columbia v. Heller, regarding whether DC's handgun ban and ban on home self-defense with any gun violate the Second Amendment. Among the articles is a poll on American attitudes towards gun ownership and the Second Amendment.

In the WaPo poll, 72% of respondents said that they considered the Second Amendment to be an individual right, not just for militia only. The is essentially identical to the most recent Gallup Poll (conducted Feb. 8-10, 2008) in which 73% of respondents said that the Second Amendment was an individual right, not limited only to militia.

The WaPo poll also asked "Would you support or oppose a law in your state that bans private handgun ownership and requires that rifles and shotguns kept in private homes be unloaded or have a trigger lock?" 59% said yes.

This is a surprising result, since it is strongly contrary other polling results. In the Gallup Poll, for example, you have to go back to 1965 to get plurality support for a handgun ban, and back to 1959 to find support comparable to the level report by WaPo.

Here's the Gallup question, and the results. "Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?"

2007. Oct 4-7. 30% should. 68% should not. 2% undecided.
2006. 32/66/2.
2005. 35/64/1.
2004. 36/63/1.
2003. 32/67/1.
2002. 32/65/3.
2000. 36/62/2.
1999. April. 38/59/3.
1999. Feb. 34/64/2.
1993. Dec. 39/60/1.
1993. March. 42/54/4.
1991. 43/53/4.
1990. 41/55/4.
1988. 37/59/4.
1987. 42/50/8.
1981. June. 41/54/5.
1981. April. 39/58/3.
1980. Dec. 38/51/11.
1980. Jan. 31/65/4.
1975. 41/55/4.
1965. 49/44/7.
1959. 60/36/4.

CBS/New York Times polls have asked "Would you favor or oppose a ban on the sale of all handguns, except those that are issued to law enforcement officers?" The CBS/NYT results are:

April 2007. 33% in favor. 64% opposed.
2000. 34/63.
1999. 43/53.
1994. 46/50.
1989. 40/55.
1981. 43/51.

I don't know why the WaPo results are so different from the others. Perhaps there was some effect from WaPo asking a compound question.

BTW, the issue in Heller is not the trigger lock requirement per se. It's that the there is no exception allowing the gun to be unlocked in a self-defense emergency; in the 1977 case of McIntosh v. Washington, the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the home self-defense ban against challenges that it violated equal protection and the common law right of self-defense. The McIntosh court agreed with D.C's lawyers and recognized the statute as an absolute ban on home self-defense with any firearm; this was held to be rational because of the number of fatal gun accidents was (according to the McIntosh court) larger than the number justiable self-defense homicides with guns.

UPDATE: A reader has supplied some graphs of the trends in the NY Times and Gallup polls. If they're too small for you to read comfortably, click on the graph, and you'll get a bigger version.