More Americans Support Gun Rights Than Gun Control, New Poll Finds
As the second anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School approaches, a new poll finds that more Americans support gun rights than gun control.
Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut which resulted in the death of twenty schoolchildren and six children, as well as the death of Nancy Lanza in a shooting that occurred in the hours prior to the massacre and the suicide of the perpetrator, Adam Lanza. The shooting itself came near the end of period that began in January 2011 with the mass shooting at a shopping center in Tucson, Arizona that resulted in the death of six people and the near-fatal shooting of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that resulted in the death of 12 and injuries to 70, and a shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that resulted in the death of seven.
In many ways, though, it was the massacre in Newtown that struck the deepest nerve with the American people, most likely both because it was the worst of the shootings that had occurred up to that point, and because it involved such young children. Polling in the wake of the massacre showed support for some forms of gun control legislation at their highest level in years, most especially an expansion of background checks for anyone purchasing a gun regardless of the nature of the transaction. Very quickly, though, it became apparent that this support was a mile wide and an inch deep in that, while there was broad support for gun control measures, most Americans did not consider gun control to be a high priority issue, meaning that it was unlikely to be something that influenced their choices at the ballot box. On the other hand, that same polling also showed that opponents of further gun control considered it a high priority issue that would definitely motivate them to go to the polls for or against a specific candidate. This disparity was confirmed by the fact that the failure of an effort in the Senate to expand Federal background checks had almost no political impact at all. By the time the six month anniversary rolled around, gun control had largely faded from the mind of the average voter as an issue, and when the one year anniversary came up last year, public opinion on the issue was largely back where it had been prior to the shootings in Newtown. More recently, a Gallup poll found that gun control had completely faded away as an issue that voters cared about.
Now, on the eve of the anniversary of one of America’s worst mass shootings, a new Pew Research poll finds that more Americans support the right to own a gun than support gun control laws, a near complete reversal of where public opinion was in the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook:
Two years after the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., a majority of Americans say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns than for the government to limit access to firearms, a Pew Research Center survey conducted this month found.
The center said in a statement that it was the first time in two decades of its surveys on attitudes about firearms that a majority of Americans have expressed more support for gun ownership rights than for gun control.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said it was more important to protect gun ownership rights, while 46 percent said the priority should be controlled access to firearms.
In a 2000 Pew survey, 29 percent chose gun rights over gun control, and in a 2013 survey conducted a month after the Newtown shooting, 45 percent favored gun rights.
“To some extent, this is the continuation of a trend,” said Jocelyn Kiley, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center. “It may be that Newtown stunted that trend to some extent.”
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown before killing himself in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history.
The Pew poll on firearms, conducted in early December, also found that African-Americans have become increasingly likely to believe that firearm ownership does more to protect people than it does to threaten an individual’s safety, even as they continue to support gun control measures.
When asked in 2012, 29 percent of African-Americans said guns offered people protection rather than exposed them to greater danger, but in this year’s survey, the number of African-Americans who viewed firearms as offering more personal safety nearly doubled to 54 percent.
By contrast, the views of whites who believe guns are more likely to provide personal protection have changed more modestly — rising to 62 percent this year from 54 percent in 2012, the poll found.
Overall, 57 percent of Americans said gun ownership was more helpful in protecting people from becoming victims of crime, while 38 percent said it does more to endanger one’s safety.
Further details from the poll:
For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.
Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year, and marks a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings, which occurred two years ago this Sunday.
The balance of opinion favored gun control in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy in December 2012, and again a month later. Since January 2013, support for gun rights has increased seven percentage points – from 45% to 52% — while the share prioritizing gun control has fallen five points (from 51% to 46%).
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 3-7 among 1,507 adults, also finds a shift in attitudes about whether gun ownership in this country does more to protect people or put people’s safety at risk. Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 38% say it does more to endanger personal safety. In the days after Newtown, 48% said guns do more to protect people and 37% said they placed people at risk.
Over the past two years, blacks’ views on this measure have changed dramatically. Currently, 54% of blacks say gun ownership does more to protect people than endanger personal safety, nearly double the percentage saying this in December 2012 (29%). By contrast, whites’ views have shown less change: 62% now view guns as doing more to protect people, up from 54% in December
Partisan differences on this question, already sizeable in 2012, have widened over the last two years. As was the case in December 2012, a majority of Democrats (60%) say guns do more to put people’s safety at risk, while only about a third (35%) say they do more to protect people from becoming crime victims. By contrast, eight-in-ten Republicans say guns do more to protect people from becoming crime victims, up 17-points from 2012.
This chart demonstrates fairly clearly how public opinion on the gun rights vs. gun control question has changed over time:
And this one shows the interesting demographic breakdowns on the question:
The most interesting thing about these numbers, of course, is both the extent to which support for gun rights now exceeds support for the general idea of increased gun control, something that we haven’t really seen very much outside of particular demographic subgroups. Outside of the fact that mass shootings have not been in the news as much as they were in the two year period between the Gabby Giffords shooting and the Sandy Hook massacre, I’m not exactly sure what to ascribe this to. After all, it isn’t as though the topic of gun rights per se has been one that has been at the forefront of public discussion during the past year or more, and there’s no indication from other polling that Americans are coming to see rising crime rates as a problem, mostly because crime rates aren’t really rising. Even more interesting is the number for African-Americans, which is a community where we’ve seen widespread support for gun rights in the past. Whether this is attributable to the fact that there do remain problems with gun violence from gangs in many African-American communities is unclear, but it’s certainly one theory that’s worth considering. Like most polling on this issue, the Pew Poll does not really try to delve into the reasons behind the changing numbers, so any theories on that issue would simply be guessing. Additionally, and also like most polling on this issue, Pews does not attempt to gauge the intensity of public opinion on either gun rights or control. However, if prior polling is any guide then it’s likely that we’d find that this remains a low priority issue for most Americans, which is something that advocates of both gun rights and gun control ought to keep in mind when looking at poll results such as this. What is clear, though, is that two years after one of the most horrific mass shootings in American history, the event itself has meant basically nothing to the debate over guns in the United States. As I’ve pointed out in previous posts on this issue, though, that’s entirely unsurprising if one had paid attention to what the polls were actually telling us about what Americans thought about the issue.
The reaction from advocates on both sides of the issue are about what you’d expect. Ed Morrissey is correct, for example, when he notes that this is likely not very good news for activists on the gun control side of the ledger such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Congresswoman Giffords, both of whom have invested much, in different ways, in advocating for increased gun control and, mostly unsuccessfully, supporting candidates for office who agreed with their position. I think Morrissey gets in wrong, though, when he argues that there was overreach on their part, especially when you consider the fact that, on the national level, the one piece of legislation that actually made it to a vote was a background check bill that had overwhelming public support but still could not get past the Senate’s 60 vote requirement, and most likely would not have passed the House if it had. Yes, there has been more aggressive legislation enacted in some states, but that has largely happened in deep blue states like New York, Connecticut, and California where there was broad public and political support for the respective measures that were passed. I wouldn’t necessarily call that overreaching.
On the other side of the argument, Ian Millheiser, meanwhile, seems to fail to understand the political reality of the debate:
The poll is consistent with a trend that can be observed across many polls, and, indeed, across other examinations of American political sentiment as well. As political scientists Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins explain, “the American electorate is symbolically conservative and operationally liberal.” When asked broad philosophical questions, most Americans align with conservative views about smaller government. Yet when asked about whether they support specific policies, the very same voters endorse liberal programs and regulations. Indeed, according to Grossmann and Hopkins, “[a] majority of the American public simultaneously endorses liberal positions on most specific policy issues while favoring conservative views on more general questions concerning the proper size and role of government.”
This dynamic plays out on issues of gun policy. Though there is little reason to doubt Pew’s finding that, at a high level of abstraction, Americans prefer robust protections for gun rights, other polls show overwhelming support for the actual gun regulations proposed by President Obama and his allies. Last July, a poll found that 92 percent of voters, including 92 percent of gun owners, support background checks for all gun sales. Yet the same polls also found that only 50 percent of the exact same respondents support “stricter gun control laws.”
Other specific proposals for additional gun regulation also enjoy robust support. Last January, for example, the conservative Rasmussen poll determined that “59% of Likely U.S. Voters think there should be a ban on the purchase of semi-automatic and assault-type weapons.” At 2013 poll found that “63 percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines and 53 percent back a ban on semi-automatic weapons.”
What Millheiser misses, of course, is the intensity issue I’ve mentioned before. Even if it’s true that Americans have a higher level of support for some of the specific gun control proposals that he mentions than the Pew question on the general question of “gun control” would suggest, polling has also shown that these are issues that voters do not place I high level of priority on, meaning that this is not the kind of issue that effective national campaigns can typically be built around. It also means that the people are going to be more open to discussions about the right to keep and bear arms than the numbers that Millheiser cites would suggest that they would be. Again, this doesn’t mean that all of these people are going to go out and become NRA members or start voting Republican, but it does mean that voters as a whole are unlikely to be persuaded by calls for more draconian gun control over a sustained period of time. That may change some day, but the fact that public opinion has shifted so dramatically this quickly after an event that, unlike any other, seemed most likely to be the one that gave momentum to the gun control movement, suggests that this is incredibly unlikely.
Americans these days are generally fearful.
As FDR said, and it’s very true today, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Our national obsession with guns and gun ownership is a public mental health problem. From Adam Lanza to Cliven Bundy, and beyond – nothing good comes from this obsession.
Open carry…why not?
to echo al-Ameda, it is all fear. Look at the spike from Columbine and Va Tech (control spiked around those times), then look at all the polls pre-internet boom. Now the internet feeds the fear. Just look at Ebola. People were out buying protective masks etc…, after Newtown the gov was going to come and take away all our guns fear (which is illogical due to us having the 2nd amendment) and the sad thing is it is not blogs that are doing this, its major new organizations, Fox, CNN etc…I think there is such thing as too much information, we all become irrational based on fears we are fed which really never come to pass
The two are not mutually exclusive.
Riots and protests across the country. Supposedly, over police that are out of control and oppressive.
So, what we need is to give the police a monopoly on guns.
Perhaps this poll will be different after some rational thought/behavior returns?
What on earth are you talking about?
Two unidentified people were found dead in a home, cause of death unknown?
So, besides the very last sentence saying the woman being held owned and wrote about firearms, where is the gun angle?
The story offers no indication as to why she is being held for the murder. However, since the police had to find the bodies during a welfare check and not due to a report of injury or death, they will consider it murder until further information refutes it.
Yeah, they probably both died from catching Obama Ebola.
In the end, Doug is right. The gun cultists’ fervor for guns is unaffected by the tides of public opinion. They’ll maintain this fervor and until they die and go off to gun heaven, where they can talk with Conservative Jesus about whether an AR-15 is better than an Uzi. Meanwhile, public opinion on this will go back and forth.
It’s why the struggle for better gun safety laws is a long war. But then, so was the anti-smoking, civil rights, and anti-drunk driving campaigns. And those were eventually won.
@C. Clavin: God, Cliffy, do you EVER take a break from being incredibly stupid?
“Open carry” is about carrying a firearm openly in public.
This story is about killings that happened inside a home. Presumably, by one of the residents of said home.
If the alleged killer here had been openly carrying, then there would likely have been no killings — she would have been out, openly carrying her gun, and not at home at the time of the killings.
20 kids get gunned down in their classroom, and support for gun rights grows.
Torture report shows an out of control administration sending CIA agents into the field to become rapists, and support for torture is on the rise.
Can I suggest a new headline for this post?
A Sick Country Just Got Sicker
I came in to say something along the lines of what Davebo said above. But the question is simply which is more important. I am surprised and frankly disappointed by the overall long-term trend here, though.
Hopefully, you can see if the administration is big on torture and sending agents of the government out to do bad things, it is better for the People to retain their gun rights?
Giving a government that has shown its willingness to torture, to “kill unarmed Black men”, etc a monopoly on guns does not seem like a wise move.
Remember, Communism as practiced in the Soviet Bloc, Cuba, China, etc. is just Socialism with gun control.
@JKB: The “Soviet Bloc”? I remember the 80s, too. 😉
Given that violent crime (including homicide) has been dropping pretty steadily for the past 5 years (and that this appears to be unrelated to the 1994 Law Enforcement act), a decrease in support for gun control seems fairly rational. The only thing about this I find surprising is that it has occurred in spite of concerted media efforts to use rare (but high profile) events to push a particular angle on the issue.
And what, exactly, does that have to do with America?
by the way … “A well regulated militia, being necessary …”
Newtown the gov was going to come and take away all our guns fear (which is illogical due to us having the 2nd amendment)
Yes and no . . . if you read the dissenting SCOTUS opinions in Heller (and to a lesser extent McDonald), it’s pretty clear that 4/9 of the court doesn’t believe the 2nd amendment applies in any meaningful way to modern gun laws. Stevens and Souter were pretty clear that they think these two decisions contravene existing precedent, and if that opinion is widely held by the remaining liberal justices, I would expect that a court with a 5/4 ideological split going the other way would have no qualms about gutting the substance of the Heller and McDonald decisions.
In the meantime, a couple of states (NY and CA in particular) have demonstrated that you can stick to gun owners pretty hard without running afoul of the 2nd Amendment by enacting rules on private ownership designed to rule out most civilian firearms.
So, while the issue is probably overplayed by Fox, etc. it does exist.
@al-Ameda: Sounds to me like you are espousing a fear of guns. You should check yourself into a mental institution ASAP.
Police have a virtual monopoly on guns in many other countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, etc. etc. and yet police in those countries manage to avoid being generally out of control and oppressive. (In both the UK and Japan last year, for example, the number of people shot dead by the police was…wait for it…zero).
How exactly is your handgun or shotgun going to protect you from a drone strike?
A well educated electorate, being necessary to the security of the state, the right of the people to keep and read books, shall not be infringed.
CLEARLY the above means only the well educated electorate can keep and read books.
@Rafer Janders: And yet, in the US police have killed over 500 citizens (note I did not use criminals) per year. So obviously the answer is to limit guns to only the police.
@Jack: 30,000 deaths a year due to guns. So, if we could limit them only to police, that would cut 29,500 gun deaths?
Guns are generally intended to be used for killing or maiming. If that makes you feel better Jack, enjoy. Me? I do not have a gun ownership fetish, I’m okay with that.
So, when did that language get excised from the constitution by Southern state founders?
@Gustopher: Um, you 30k number includes justifiable homicide, suicide, and self defense. the real number is just under 12k. But keep kidding yourself.
@al-Ameda: So, you dislike guns and don’t own one. Good for you. But if you are truly pro choice, then don’t decry my choice to own them.
I’m not talking about choice, of course you can own guns. I’m talking about regulation.
I construe guns to mean something less than surface-to-air mounted missiles, although I’m sure that many gun cultists would say that the Second Amendment allows that too.
@Jack: You beat me to it.
The only thing I would add is that the vast majority of that extra 20k or so are suicides. Justifiable homicides are <1000 per year, and accidents are (IIRC) 300-400ish per year, though I'm having trouble finding that statistic at the moment (and I think it's arguable that a significant chunk of those are actually homicides).
Own all you want.
But they should be well regulated.
Registered, and a background check for the owner.
Nothing in the Constitution…even as fraudulent as the current reading of it is…prevents these things.
@al-Ameda: Regulation. Sure, that’s the same thing anti abortionists want. They don’t want to outlaw abortion, they only want to regulate it better. HA!
@C. Clavin: Sure, there is no infringement in any of your suggestions. Why don’t we add that all guns must cost $1M apiece (price + tax = $1M). You’re not banning them from regular use by civilians, you’re just regulating them.
Jack, “regulation” of guns is mentioned in The Constitution, regulation of abortion? Not so much.
And thus Jack renders himself as a nutbag.
@al-Ameda: So, you are saying there is no regulation allowed unless it’s in the Constitution? Please, let Congress know this. Tell the EPA, the DOJ, the DEA. Yell it from the rooftops.
The word regulated at the writing of the constitution meant operating properly…not a rule or directive made and maintained by an authority.
Don’t even try that sh1t and expect to get away with it.
@C. Clavin: And thus, Clavin renders himself a hypocrite. But, we all knew that.
But they should be well regulated. Registered, and a background check for the owner.
In principle, I agree (as do most gun owners, if polling data is to be believed). Some things to consider though:
1) In both of the states where I’ve bought guns, you already had to register them with the state, and clear a background check. IIRC, this is true for most (if not all) states at the moment. There is the dreaded ‘gun show loophole,’ but last time I looked into the issue there wasn’t much data to indicate that it would make a significant difference if those were subject to background checks as well. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be, just that it isn’t likely to make a difference.
2) The opposition to ‘universal background checks’ is largely based on the following:
– The concern is that if required at the federal level, such a program would be used as a de facto gun ban at some point in the future (see: ‘shall issue’ or Chicago’s ‘license requirement’).
– The certainty that if 2nd amendment supporters concede on background checks, their opponents will just come for something else next time. Better to fight this thing from the Rhine than from the Rubicon.
Now, if either side was really interested in compromise, I’d be interested in seeing universal background checks and strengthened licensing in return for something important on our end, like a 50-state CPL (that could require additional background checks and a practical qual.) and/or some kind of serious legislative hurdle that would prevent future progressives from coming back to the issue. Of course, I’d also like a suitcase full of $100 bills delivered by a magical unicorn, and that’s probably more likely.
While I can agree with you in principle, the problem with “Universal Background Checks by definition must lead to “Universal Registration”. And everywhere there was registration, there eventually was confiscation.
Even here in the US you need only look to CA, NY, CT for recent confiscation moves. New Orleans after Katrina. Hawaii after Pearl Harbor for three years outlawed the ownership of guns and ammunition by civilians. All guns were confiscated under penalty of severe jail time under martial law–martial law that lasted three years. I’m glad that I have guns that I have not bought through an FFL…because the government does not know I have them.
@Jack: I would guess the number could be significantly lowered by gun control.
One of the main drivers of civilian deaths is the fact that the police has basically adopted an “assume everybody has a gun and will use it immediately without any tells” stance. Which is reasonable if you want to keep yourself safe in an over-armed society, but will lead to unnecessary deaths.
And since they went to gun control in England, they are now legislating knife control because all the yobs carry knives and machetes.
Gun control isn’t about guns, it’s about control. Just because someone else cannot act civilly if they happen to carry a gun, does not mean I cannot act civilly when I carry a gun. Too many (Clavin, Al Ameda) want to push their insecurities on the rest of us in the form of regulation.
Canada has Universal Registration and background checks…without confiscation (unless they aren’t registered)…and they have about 1/7th of the gun related deaths we have.
This confiscation thing is about as mythical as tax cuts that pay for themselves, WMD in Iraq, and valuable intelligence from torturing.
An interesting note: after the Sandy Hook shooting here in CT we passed fairly rigid gun control laws. This did not prevent the Democratic Governor who passed the laws from being re-elected.
@C. Clavin: Canada cancelled their long gun registration scheme in 2012 because it was too costly and led to exactly zero arrests. Thanks for playing, get your door prize on your way out.
@Jack: That’s a completely different argument. It’s also seems irrelevant to the question.
Yet another unfortunate day to be discussing this. (Apparently some sort of incident in a Portland high school.)
Anyway, I’m sure this has asked and answered many times before, but I’m curious what the gun rights folks in this thread think:
What is your line? Would you be okay with any civil person carrying around a nuclear bomb (pretending that the radiation isn’t a problem until it goes off)?
On the opposite side, what do the gun control folks think:
What is your line? Are you okay with people carrying around pocket knives?
Oh…so you have only been talking about rifles and shotguns and are fine with registering hand guns and what-not. Good to know.
Did I say that, Jack? Nope.
You can play with ‘well regulated’ all you like, but the fact is, regulation does not abridge gun ownership, that is, unless you define gun ownership as having the ability purchase all manner of armaments – missiles, tanks, and so forth – which many gun ownership fans do.
@Ebenezer_Arvigenius: What question? This post is about the fact that more people are pro gun than anti. Where is the question?
@al-Ameda: Its perfectly legal to buy tanks, flame throwers, and all other kinds of “war” materials.
@al-Ameda: The fact is….
We won, you lost. Acceptance is the first step.
@Franklin: What is your line?
Thank you. That’s an excellent question, and I think it’s important to ask it, rather than to build and criticize straw man positions.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think it’s about right where it is. Civilians should have access to weapons that are useful for personal self defense, hunting, and recreation, broadly defined. Current laws make it relatively easy to own handguns, shotguns, and rifles (bolt action and semi-automatic). I think that suppressors (or ‘silencers’ if you prefer) have some obvious civilian uses (particularly in hunting and recreational shooting), but also some obvious criminal utility. Given that there aren’t many shootings carried out with them, I would also propose that the current policy (legal, but with some extra fees and paperwork) is about right.
Automatic weapons are more or less impossible for civilians to own (without a great deal of licensing and oversight), and I think that’s about the right balance. Automatic rifles are more a liability than an asset for self-defense,* and submachine guns would (IMO) be especially problematic, given how useful a small, automatic weapon would be for criminals.
*I would add that I also don’t like the idea of automatic weapons being commonplace with law enforcement either, since the same concerns about poor weapon handling and collateral damage apply.
I would also add that one of the most frustrating aspects of current gun control rhetoric is the tendency (whether through malice or ignorance) to conflate automatic and semi-automatic weapons when talking about new gun laws.
Seriously? Fine, I’ll play along. Even though the supreme court has said that “arms” for the purpose of 2nd amendment protection, must be “able to be carried” and nuclear bombs are not. Lets presume they have been miniaturized down to the size of a cell phone. My answer would be no. Nuclear bombs are mass destruction devices capable of killing millions. A “person” cannot use a nuclear bomb for self defense or the defense of others. Unlike a handgun or long gun.
True. I would say that something to guarantee a truce over the issue would be a necessary part of the compromise. Unfortunately, short of updating the 2nd amendment to more specific and modern language, I’m not really sure what that would look like.
Regulation does not necessarily abridge gun ownership. But a large portion of the left has made it pretty clear that they disapprove of gun ownership in general, and will ‘regulate’ it out of existence if given the opportunity. As someone who is both pro-choice and pro-2nd amendment (and who has close contact with both of those communities) I can say that there is a pretty similar view of the opposition in both cases as people who firmly believe in their cause and will use any tools they can to achieve it. Regulation is one such tool. And again, there are examples – IIRC the McDonald decision was about the fact that while handguns were technically ‘legal’ in Chicago, you had to pay a nominal licensing fee, and the city had stopped accepting applications or payments, thereby turning a de jure regulation into a de facto ban.
@CET: After the stuff the Democracts have pulled in California you can’t blame gun owners for being wary.
@CET: Please dear god don’t use the incredibly improper propaganda based term for suppressor. Word might get out that suppressors don’t magically make all guns quiet. Silencer is a term used by anti-gun folks and those that are uneducated. The goal is make suppressors seem scary because only murderers would want their guns to be silent.
Without subsonic ammo and such suppressed firearms are quite loud still.
@Ebenezer_Arvigenius: Even a complete ban on guns wouldn’t change that though. Police are trigger happy because there’s no real penalty for shooting innocents. They generally get a few weeks off work PAID then they go back like nothing happened.
It should be clear by now that police violence is about far more then just gun ownership at this point.
Does this mean you accept higher taxes on the rich?
It’s not, however, perfectly legal to buy bombs, grenades, surface to air missiles such as Stingers, claymore mines, mortars, RPGs, or nuclear weapons. Try and you’ll find yourself getting a visit from the FBI or ATF pretty damn quick.
How, exactly, in your opinion does the US government have the authority to ban you from owning any of these weapons? After all, lots of these are exactly the sort of weapons you’d think a militia would want.
Yes, I accept well regulated to mean well regulated.
Oh yeah, I’m pretty sure that open carry laws are intended to allow dangerous morons to walk around with Flame Throwers, and Shoulder-mounted Surface-To-Air Missile Units
Please dear god don’t use the incredibly improper propaganda based term for suppressor.
Well said, but I’m just trying to be realistic here. Hell, the fact that the phrase ‘assault clip’ hasn’t been used in earnest puts this in the top 10% of comment threads for accuracy on this topic. 🙂
After the stuff the Democracts have pulled in California you can’t blame gun owners for being wary.
I don’t, and I am. Don’t think for an instant that I don’t keep a really close eye on state level politics in my part of the world. I guess my take-home point here for the left end of the commenters is that there are things that we advocate against, not because we disagree with them in principle, but because we have serious and valid concerns about how they would be implemented based on past and current events.
@CET: No, you don’t see opponents of gun culture murdering gun manufacturers or salespeople (and then being defended by fellow-travelers).
@al-Ameda: Besides, would one call a militia being well functioning if your militiamen were killing themselves in droves intentionally and each other accidentally in significant (tho smaller) numbers? Would you call it well functioning if they were using their weapons against the legitimate agents of the state (or threatening to)? Would you call it well functioning if they were constantly letting their weapons fall into the hands of criminals? Or traffickers?
@Turgid Jacobian: And therefore, you take those people’s guns away. Not, everyone else’s.
See, you want to lump all gun owners into a group in which they don’t belong. You want to blame all gun owners for the crimes committed by the few. Yet, when a Muslim commits a suicide bombing, you would defend every other Muslim by saying don’t group all Muslims together.
the msm does it’s best to not popularize gun owners who defend themselves with guns, it’s a near daily occurrence though and it’s not a bunch of god fearing white people holed up in farmhouses.
@Jack: And Jack, how do you think I should do that besides, you know, laws?
@Jack: See, you want to lump all gun owners into a group in which they don’t belong. You want to blame all gun owners for the crimes committed by the few. Yet, when a Muslim commits a suicide bombing, you would defend every other Muslim by saying don’t group all Muslims together.
So you think the ownership of guns is like a religion? I own a handgun and I think that’s nasty.
@Jack: Jack, I think you’re feeding the troll here . . .
Well my point here was to go to the extreme of something where a single person has the ability to instantly kill thousands/millions of people and assume you would say no to that.
You limited your response to handguns, “long guns”, and nuclear bombs. But there’s a lot of weapons (and conceivable weapons in the near future) between a handgun and a nuclear bomb. CET acknowledged this by discussing submachine and machine guns.
@CET: Haha, when nobody else is talking to you, and you are surrounded by folks who sound alien to you? You are the troll.
It is the common usage term. If you want to blame someone, blame spy movies and books. That is where it came from, not some grand liberal conspiracy.
@Grewgills: Except it’s not. No one around her calls them silencers except some gun newbies and the anti-gun nuts. The forms all say suppressor the suppressors all say suppressors and those selling them call them suppressors.
It’s like idiots with assault rifles. Just because you call it an assault rifle doesn’t mean it is one..
The problem here is that instead of gun control, we should be talking about arms control (as the Constitution does). We have had effective arms control for decades, on public safety grounds, without any public outcry. There has been tight control of even “personal weapons”. ( Note that the Constitution has no such category. The so called “originalist” Justice Scalia read the term into the text, in order to come up with his tendentious conclusion in Heller).
No one (outside the nutbag fringe) thinks that the public ought to have unfettered access to hand grenades, claymore mines, rocket propelled grenade launchers,C-4 explosives, poison gas canisters, mortars, etc., etc., even though all of these arguably fit the “personal weapons” category and might be useful for personal and self defense (a minefield would be a far better 24/7 home defense option, because mines don’t sleep, whereas a gun owner does). All these weapons are effectively banned from the public, generally without even the implication that there is the limitation of a constitutional right. Does anyone make the argument “Hand grenades don’t kill, people do” or that “C-4 is just an inanimate object, and therefore the public has nothing to fear from its widespread use”. No, they don’t, because we instantly recognize such arguments as nonsensical.
Guns, however, are different. Thanks to effective right wing propaganda (and Hollywood) guns have become the Jesus Weapon. Mere possession of a gun elevates its owner to being a true patriot, a defender of freedom and the American way, and (ahem ) a REAL man.(I’m not even going to get into the racial aspect of gun cult mythology as this time. But it’s there). So even the suggestion that guns should be properly regulated on public safety grounds is thought of as being an assault on American values and American manhood.
Meanwhile, the rest of the civilized world looks on with bemusement , as the majority of the American public seriously believes that if guns are properly regulated on public safety grounds , American society will either become a tyrannical dictatorship, or a crime infested hellhole, depending on which right wing meme is being pushed.
Societies like Australia, Switzerland, Israel, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada have of course had effective gun safety laws for decades, all without either of these scenarios happening. All that has happened is that they have had lower crime rates than the USA, and far, far lower rates of gun deaths. (And two of those countries have well regulated militias, even).
The gun cultists in their self imposed bubble either pretend that these countries don’t exist or that they are indeed on the road to serfdom or crime chaos. People in these countries simply shake their heads at the US, thinking of it as a great nation with one profound mass delusion.
So where are we? At this point, it’s a long war. A generation of gun cultists is going to have to die off before we can have even a meaningful discussion on the topic. All we can do is keep telling the truth until American society is ready to accept it, the way they finally accepted the truth on tobacco smoking, civil rights, and slavery. So it goes.
Sigh. The general public calls them “silencers”, just as the general public calls semi-automatic pistols “automatics” (and have for decades). It’s not that big of a deal, except for those with a fetishist concern for terminology.
As for “Assault Rifle”, an AR-15 IS an assault rifle -, modified and designed for civilian use. You can call it a “modern sporting rifle” or whatever the current gun industry marketing jargon is , but it is quite clearly a modified M-16. Or at least so my ex-Marine wife tells me.
I find these discussions of terminology by gun cultists similar in nature to theologians discussing whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the son (filioque) or the Father through the Son. The difference-the gun terminology discussions are less interesting.
For many gun cultists, ownership of a gun is a religion. They’ll tell you its a God-given right. Even those that don’t go that far seem to think of guns as sacred objects, imbuing their possessor with special powers and privileges. They don’t think of them as another weapon like any other. Therein lies the reason you can’t have a logical discussion about guns.
Really? Have you never watched a James Bond movie? Die Hard? No Country for Old Men? any other spy or assassin movie in the last 50 years? Seriously man, it’s not that hard to see ‘silencers’ mythologized into magical devices that make a 9mm sound like a pellet gun. It’s in virtually every movie or tv show that has a spy or an assassin. You need to get out more.
Well, unless you are black. In that case, a gun owner is a dangerous thug.
@stonetools: As for “Assault Rifle”, an AR-15 IS an assault rifle -, modified and designed for civilian use.
Yes, but the modification is that it is no longer automatic, While some of the terminology issues (clip vs, magazine, silencer vs. suppressor) are largely semantic,* there is a big difference between automatic and semi-automatic, and gun control advocates have spent the last 20 years trying to get the public to confuse the two.
*It’s still worth knowing about a thing if you want to regulate it though – otherwise it’s sort of like listening to a bunch of Amish talk about how sport utility cars with spoilers and big rims should be banned . . .
@anjin-san: Well, unless you are black. In that case, a gun owner is a dangerous thug.
On the contrary, there are plenty of examples of gun rights advocates encouraging Black Americans to own guns. Off the top of my head: This one, this one, and this one.
But don’t let that get in the way of your straw man argument, please.
@stonetools: Guns, however, are different.
Yes – but the largest difference between guns (and knives, bows, and crossbows) and all the other weapons that aren’t legally available to civilians is that a they have to be directed against a specific threat and require intent to harm that specific threat on the part of its user. Explosives, particularly those that are automatically triggered, do not. Booby traps of all kinds (even those made with legally available material) are very illegal to construct or deploy for precisely that reason – there’s just too much that can go horribly wrong.
You are right that firearms have been mythologized to a large degree. The roots of that run pretty deep, and it’s arguable that the movie industry has done more to fetishize guns than the NRA ever could.
Yeah, well I and every poster on this blog knows about the difference between automatic and semi-automatic. Frankly, it’s self serving mythology that gun safety advocates don’t know these basic differences, We may not be up on more arcane stuff, but that we get. We definitely are mystified that gun cultists put such great emphasis on correct terminology for things the public call something else. Magazines or clips, bullets or cartridges -who the eff cares? I’ve seen police officers refer to these objects using these terms interchangeably, without any misunderstanding by anyone.
An AR 15 remains an assault rifle, even when modified for automatic only use, just as a declawed cat remains a cat and falcon with its wings clipped remains a falcon. Forget not that Adam Lanza used an AR15 to kill 26 people in 5 minutes. That makes it as much a weapon of mass destruction as any bomb, IMO.
I think Anjin is thinking of these advocates, which far outnumber your examples, unfortunately.
IMO, the big reason for the latest surge in favor of gun rights is that since the Michael Brown killing, there have been a whole lot of black folks protesting police brutality. That’s enough to make certain kinds of white folk lose their sh!t, and start clutching their guns.
Remember Reagan? He began big on gun control the moment Black panthers showed up “open carrying.” The more things change…
All of that sounds like public safety language-the very kind of language that gun rights advocates reject in discussions of gun violence. The reason they do that of course is that from a public health and safety perspective gun violence looks like an epidemic, best controlled by limiting the numbers of guns out there and controlling access to guns. (That’s the way the rest of the civilized world thinks about guns).
When we stopped looking at car deaths as something inevitable and capable of control by installing and using safety equipment, then we passed laws requiring the car manufacturers install safety equipment and other laws mandating that car owners use them-over the objections of “libertarians” insisting that people had a “right” not to use seat belts. The “rights” advocates lost because people looked at seat belts as a public health issue, not a “rights” issue.
The usual suspects also defended tobacco companies, saying people had a “right” to smoke cigarettes and risk cancer. They lost too, once we started looking a cigarette smoking as a public health issue.
Note too that edged weapons are far more closely controlled than guns. (You can open carry an AR 15-not a samurai sword).There’s much less of a mythology of the “edged weapon” hero, so we think of limiting edged weapons in straightforward public health terms
OT: Last night I watched the Danish crime thriller Dicte. The co-star police inspector didn’t have a gun, yet it didn’t seem to even occur to the people there that he couldn’t be an effective law enforcement officer without a gun. The only person in the show who had a gun was one criminal.
The differences between societies are amazing sometimes.
@stonetools: I think Anjin is thinking of these advocates
Wow. That was 20 minutes of my life I’ll never get back . . . other than the one throwaway line about the ‘war of northern aggression,’ I’m not really sure there’s anything there to indicate racism, let alone a set of dog-whistles about black gun owners. It was mostly just the usual laundry list of dubious claims about the UN and the EPA, combined with an NPR-style fundraising pitch. So, while it was a good example of why I don’t generally give money to the NRA, I’m not really sure how it relates to your original claim.
That’s enough to make certain kinds of white folk lose their sh!t, and start clutching their guns.
Ok – then explain the 25% increase in black americans who said that “gun ownership in this country does more to protect from being a crime victim” or the 10% increase among black americans saying that “it is more important to protect gun rights”
Did the detective encounter a random individual walking down the street, who then attacked him when he tried to investigate based on probable cause? Did the individual then turn and charge the detective as the detective tried to follow the assailant as he awaited the arrival of additional officers to aid in apprehension?
How diverse is the Danish population in the show? Do they all adhere to the same moral code and honor the rule of law?
I don’t remember Colombo ever using a gun?
Hey, we’re talking crime thriller here, not batsh!t crazy fantasy. Stuff like that doesn’t happen in real life-here or in Denmark.
Propoganda works, across all classes and races?
Look, the NRA has been relentless is pushing its propaganda and its winning, even in the face of CDC studies that say the exact opposite. (A big reason why the NRA hates scientific study of gun violence is that refutes their propaganda. Apparently, though they don’t need to worry).
The link between lung cancer and cigarettes was known by the 1930s, yet the percentage of smokers continued to rise all the way into the 1960s, fuelled by Hollywood and cigarette industry propaganda (advertising).
That’s why you don’t base public health policy on public opinion-you base it on science. People believed cholera was caused by bad air, but we started making progress against cholera when we ignored what people believed and started acting on what scientific study showed.
Can we at least make certain that idiots and careless people don’t get their hands on guns? I see too many cases of “oops, I left in on the bed and my toddler shot himself/my wife/his sister/the family dog.” Or “gee, I didn’t know it was loaded.” Or “oh, you mean I shouldn’t just shoot wildly into the air?”
A gun is a machine designed for killing. Can we at least make sure that the people who have their hands on them in populated areas are careful and respectful of the immense responsibility they have to handle their armament is an intelligent and restrained manner?
Oh, and open carry? Unless you’re in a location where open carry IS in fact the default, you’re just being a jackass trying to intimidate people. Why shouldn’t you be shot down in turn by someone who is terrified by your open carry and thinks you’re on your way to carry out a mass killing?
Look, the NRA has been relentless is pushing its propaganda and its winning, even in the face of CDC studies that say the exact opposite.
To a first approximation, I’m in favor of a pragmatic approach to the law around firearms. I think people in the pro-2nd A crowd generally do the issue a disservice by using ‘because the constitution says so’ as their main argument.
My objection to the ‘public health’ argument is that in practice it ends up being a thin veneer of “science” on top of the same old political rhetoric. For example: while the data pretty strongly support the position that possession of a firearm by someone who is already predisposed to suicide further increases that risk, the data on firearm ownership and homicide is problematic, with studies finding either no significant link(1), or a barely significant link for specific populations(2). In spite of this, media presentation of the issue usually takes the data and tries to present it as a ‘fact’ that owning a gun is more dangerous than not, which totally ignores the caveats and limitations of the data.
That’s why you don’t base public health policy on public opinion-you base it on science.
Note that the cholera and tobacco examples both have clear causal mechanisms, backed up by the natural sciences (which are fundamentally better able to demonstrate causality, but still more limited than most outsiders realize). The data provided by social scientists is always going to be subject to a fair amount of interpretation and while it might suggest that firearms have an effect on crime, it’s not going to provide the black and white picture that people on both sides are looking for. FWIW, my interpretation of the available data is what I’ve said before: Firearms exert a multiplier effect on other problems. But firearms are also the most effective personal defense against those same problems (which would exist even in a highly speculative situation where criminals in the US didn’t have access to guns).
Can we at least make certain that idiots and careless people don’t get their hands on guns?
I’d be fine with that. In principle, I think the optimal firearms policy would be to treat guns very much the way we treat cars: In order to own and carry a firearm, people would have to get a ‘gun license’ that included both a written exam of the legal and tactical aspects of firearm use, and a practical exam in which they safely disassembled, reassembled, and accurately fired each type of gun that they were licensed for. The license could be suspended or revoked for certain crimes (domestic abuse, drug trafficking, etc), but would otherwise be accepted without question in all 50 states. In addition, there would be no more of this silliness about limiting weapons that play a trivial role in crime (magazines over 7 rounds, semi-automatic rifles, etc).
In practice, gun control advocates will never sanction a 50 state carry license (or give up on gun bans), and gun rights advocates will never agree to that degree of regulation because they (quite reasonably, IMO) believe that progressives would do their best to turn the regulation into a ban given half an opportunity.
And that’s why we’re stuck with the current system.
1) Kleck G et al. Soc Probl. 1999;46:275–93.
Wiebe DJ. Ann Emerg Med. 2003;41:771–82.
2) Dahlberg LL et al, Am J Epidemiol. 2004;160:929–936.
Thanks for your response. I see most of your points, right on up to that last sentence (which I believe is the argument that conservatives make citing “gun grabbers.”)
The gun regulations we have now represent, IMO unfortunately, the high water mark. In fact I believe, with conservatives ascendant in many states and in Congress, that we will see a rollback of many regulations.The fact is, as long as we have a patchwork state-by-state system of firearms regulation we’re never going to have effective regulation.
To me it is Say’s Law in action – supply crates it’s own demand. We’re awash in guns, it’s that simple, and given a supply of over 300M guns and relatively easy access (legal or illegal) to firearms, we’re statistically going to have periodic mass shootings, it seems like a mathematical certainty to me.
We can’t agree on ANY new regulation these days – conservatives say that there’s enough, liberals want more. We’re going nowhere fast. I n fact I would argue we’re going backwards – many states are liberalizing open-carry laws, as if it’s a good thing for “normal’ people to carry guns into their local Starbucks or into public parks and so forth.
If you don’t think the science on gun violence studies is good enough , the solution is peer review and more studies. The NRA’s response is precisely the opposite: to prevent more scientific study of gun violence. I think the reason for that is VERY clear: they know the science doesn’t support them and they want less of it. They’re doing well winning with propaganda and slogans: why bring science into it?
To that I say, try us. It’s a good rhetorical trick to say that the other side will never compromise. If we look at the facts, its the gun rights advocates who won’t agree even to universal background checks, which is far less than your program calls for. IIRC, only one person on this blog is in favor of a gun ban. Most of us favor a more nuanced approach.
I’m on record as being in favor of a Swiss or Canadian approach to gun safety legislation-and was attacked by the usual suspects here as a “gun grabber.”
I’ve advanced your idea that guns should be treated as cars-and was told I didn’t understand the idea of constitutional rights, since the right to own a car wasn’t in the Constitution. So good luck with convincing your side to adopt the car analogy.
Here is a tweet appropriate to the discussion:
Why is Rand Paul attacking the good doctor? Because Dr. Murthy is in favor of the more CDC study of gun violence. So, yeah, CET, tell us more about those reasonable, open minded gun rights advocates….
Ah, the sweet, sweet taste of hippy tears! I wish I had been able to spend time on this thread yesterday as well, just so I could prolong that unadulterated joy over the broken hearts of the stinky crowd. Wait, does that qualify as schadenfreude?
(Yes, once again, I’m trolling the OTB Left Wing commentariat (near-redundancy alert!) over this subject, which produces such tasty, thirst-slaking goodness!)
What is a “hippy”?
@al-Schadenfreude: A hippie with a fat butt?
I was thinking Cliven Bundy fighting off the landlord.
You’re all hat, no cattle….
@Stonetools: Typical hippie, ya got nuthin’, so you slip into ad hominem.
But thassokay, as long as you let me lick the lachrymal flood erupting from the abyss of your hoplophobia.
A ridiculous statement, even if meant as a (weak) joke, as it is reasonable to regulate gun ownership as well as abortion…
I wonder if that’s like cackling about abortion, gay marriage, pot legalization, and a whole host of other progressive ideas that are now law on conservative websites…
Thank you for my daily dose of irony.
I’m so glad someone finally picked up on it. Irony, satire and generally having a sense of humor seems to get lost so quickly these days!
To that I say, try us. It’s a good rhetorical trick to say that the other side will never compromise.
The really funny part of this whole thing is that I would guess we agree on the broad outlines of gun policy, and differ mostly in our priorities.
Having said that, let’s talk about the word ‘compromise.’ I think that in this debate that word has become short hand for ‘give us part of what we want now, and we’ll come for the rest later.’ (e.g. “Give us background checks as a ‘compromise’ and maybe we won’t try to cram an AWB down your throat next time . . .”). The two parts of that proposal that are key to the ‘compromise’ aspect are 50 state reciprocity* and protection against the transformation of ‘gun license’ to ‘gun ban.’**
IMO, the thing to do would be for someone to propose a pilot version of the ‘gun license’ program in the form of an optional ‘national carry license’ with the requirements that I’ve noted, but I’m not holding my breath.
*50 state reciprocity doesn’t exactly have a record of bipartisan support. See, for example: HR822, HR2959, S.1908.
**I know it is fashionable to assert that only a minority of the left wants to completely ban firearms, and that may be true, but the fact that cities like Chicago and DC were able to enact and sustain bans, and that states like NY have been able and willing to enact restrictions that are the gun equivalent of ‘you can still buy cars, but only if they are hatchbacks with 3 cylinder engines’ strongly indicates that this minority is able to make it’s priorities into law. If you are really skeptical on this point, I can lay out a number of scenarios for how a licensing scheme could easily be made into a de facto ban, based on recent and current situations in this country.
The fact is, as long as we have a patchwork state-by-state system of firearms regulation we’re never going to have effective regulation.
I agree with this. I think the state-to-state patchwork is bad for everyone.
I see most of your points, right on up to that last sentence
But that last point is a big one – it’s why you can have polls showing >90% support for background checks, but still have the Manchin-Toomey proposal crash and burn.
The short-ish version is that while things are trending towards gun rights at the moment, sort of, it’s a very fragile victory. Any number of things (a change on SCOTUS, if the dems ever take back the legislature, or even if a future dem president made it a priority) could reverse it, and a federal checkpoint for gun purchases would be an easy tool to create a de facto ban for some/all forms of gun ownership.
For example, suppose there was a universal check with a nominal fee (say $30) required for any firearm purchase, and that circumventing this system was a felony on par with arms trafficking. That’s fine, but what happens when a future administration directs the department responsible for this process to stop running applications on some/all purchases depending on what bans are trendy, or just defunds the positions for the staff who carry out that work, or increases the fee to $30K, or comes up with some other way to circumvent the intent of the law? Individual moderate democrats can provide all the assurance they want they *they* would never do that, but they can hardly guarantee that someone else in the party won’t.
@Franklin: Think about this: gun sales soared a few months ago. Some say that a lot of people are worried that the Department of Justice is going to put a lot of restrictions on local police and that the police will be limited on how much they can help them in case of burglary, assault, or theft.
A lot of chat around concerning some kind of thing where many federal agencies are buying up ammunition like crazy. Local pawn shop and some sports stores say that supplies are tight.
Even the Postal Service. I can understand the US Marshals, F.B. I., and NSA. But the Post Office ?
They must have some mean dogs out there. Or maybe it is for the mail carriers in Oakland.
This is interesting: government building huge underground bunker at White House> Why ? For what ? This is one thing that they can’t hide !
see it at:
Something is about to happen!
And “That’s Outrageous” Department: US soldier on leave not allowed to stay with wife and baby during Christmas – will face arrest ! Talk about disgusting !
Wow, what a lot of conspiratorial stuff.
It – increased gun sales – comes down to one simple very salient fact, which is we have a moderate Black president in the White House. People will fabricate all the reasons they want in order to go gun purchase crazy, but really, it’s all about fear.
@al-Ameda: Talk about your fabrications, that’s some serious “making it up as I go along” stuff right there.
I do believe that many of those people who are going “gun purchase crazy” are doing it in part because of the Black guy in the White House. About 50% of the Republican Party still believes the Birther claims that this president is not a legitimately elected president.
Anyway, happy holidays to you, Boyd.