Colorado Shootings Had Little Impact On Public Opinion On Gun Laws

A new Pew Research Center poll indicates that the shooting in Aurora, Colorado has had no discernible impact in public opinion regarding gun rights and gun control:

A new poll shows Americans views on gun control unchanged after the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. earlier this month, with the public almost evenly split on the need for more laws.

Forty-seven percent say it is more important to pass laws controlling gun ownership, while 46 percent say protecting Second Amendment rights are more important, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

That figure is similar to results from the same survey taken in April which showed 49 percent prioritizing gun ownership rights and 45 percent calling for more gun control.

Most respondents saw the Aurora incident as an isolated event. Sixty-seven percent said such shootings were “the isolated acts of troubled individuals,” while 24 percent said they “reflect broader problems in American society.”

The poll found a sharp partisan divide over the issue, with self-identified Republicans prioritizing gun ownership rights by 71 to 26 percent. Democrats prioritize gun control restrictions by a 72 to 21 margin.

Independents are split with 50 percent wanting a focus on protecting gun rights and 43 on gun control.

The reaction in the aftermath of the July 20th Aurora shootings matches other gun massacres, the poll found.

“There was no significant change in the balance of opinion about gun rights and gun control after the January, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was injured. Nor was there a spike in support for gun control following the shooting at Virginia Tech University in April, 2007,” said a Pew statement announcing the poll.

This isn’t entirely surprising. Support for increased gun control has not been the majority opinion in the United States for some time, and while there was a slight uptick in support for restrictions on gun ownership in this poll, it’s not clear that is a statistically significant move. Moreover, phenomenon such as the surge in gun purchases in Colorado in the wake of the shootings suggests that it’s supporters of gun rights who are more strongly motivated on this issue. At best, this remains a 50/50 issue, but given the political power of organizations like the NRA it’s unlikely we’ll see restrictions on gun ownership become law any time soon.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Moreover, phenomenon such as the surge in gun purchases in Colorado in the wake of the shootings suggests that it’s supporters of gun rights who are more strongly motivated on this issue.


    Does it hurt to squint that hard?

    Surges in gun purchases surrounding elections which have no gun control component (Obama ’08) and in the wake of shootings show little reason. They have little to do with rights. It is more basic.

    “Hey, this reminds me. I like guns. I should get more.”

    Add “before they take them away” and you are on the literal lunatic fringe.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    As John just noted, this is no surprise whatsoever.

    After the Tuscon shooting spree gun sales spiked in many locales, just as it was recently reported that it did following the Aurora massacre. A significant portion of the GOP base actually believes, in the absence of any evidence, that the president has a plan to take their guns away.

    There are not many minds to be changed on this issue.

  3. al-Ameda says:


    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I apologize for my intemperate remarks. Is that sufficient?

  4. A bunch of comments just got caught in the spam filter for some reason. They’re cleared now

  5. I mentioned this a while back … I was walking around Huntington Beach, California. It is a fairly mellow OC beach town. I kind of did a double-take because the notice stapled to a telephone pole wasn’t a get rich quick plan. It was a screed about how the newly elected Obama was going to take away guns.

    That really captured it for me. The fear is out there. It is with the people who think stapling political rants to telephone poles is the way to go.

    And then sadly, I heard the same fear from a successful OC businessman, who was talking about getting guns from relatives in Arizona (skirting California gun laws).

    Paranoia is mainstream. It’s there on nutty placards, but businessmen bring it up at meetings, without embarrassment.

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Even Zombieland has a basic understanding of superseding causes and like matters. Besides, a lot of people live in and around urban centers with strict gun control ordinances, e.g., Chicago, Philly, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, etc. You don’t need a ouija board to figure out that those regulations not only don’t work but in most instances have the exact opposite of their intended effects. All one needs to do in that regard is to pick up a local newspaper in a gun control city and to read the metro section, specifically the daily catalogue of the prior evening’s fatal gang shootings, etc. People generally know shit from Shinola, and for that reason alone a spree killer’s exploits simply are not going to move the public opinion needle.

  7. JKB says:

    Spree killers and zombies eating off people’s faces do not make good arguments for disarmament. In fact, they would more likely imply the reverse.

  8. Mr. Replica says:

    Obama expected to sign global gun control treaty

    This is one of the main reasons why people are buying guns in historic rates. Along with the amendment being added to the cyber-security bill in the senate.

  9. Caroling says:

    The tragedy in Colorado has re-ignited the debate about gun control and military-style assault rifles. One aspect of this issue that rarely gets enough attention is that the same type of gun used in the Aurora shooting is also fueling violence beyond our borders. Check out this powerful video.