Poll Shows Slight Majority Support For Some Forms Of Gun Control
The first poll conducted in the wake of Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School shows majority support for some forms of gun control:
More than half of Americans say the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, reflect broader problems in society rather than an isolated act of a troubled person – more than after other recent shooting incidents, suggesting the possibility of a new national dialogue on violent crime.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll also finds that 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws in general, numerically a five-year high, albeit not significantly different than in recent years. Fifty-nine percent support a ban specifically on high-capacity ammunition clips, a step on which partisan and ideological gaps narrow substantially and “strong” support peaks.
Attitudes on gun control in the past have not shifted sharply in response to heinous gun crimes, and that appears to be the case again, at least thus far. As noted, for example, 54 percent favor stricter gun control in general; it’s been 50 to 52 percent in polls since 2008, and was higher in previous years, peaking at 67 percent in 1999 and 2000.
On specific measures, 52 percent favor banning semi-automatic handguns (it’s been 48 and 55 percent in previous polls) and 59 percent support banning high-capacity clips that carry more than 10 bullets (it was a similar 57 percent in early 2011, after the Tucson shootings). Banning the sale of handguns entirely (except for law enforcement) remains broadly unpopular, with 71 percent opposed, numerically a new high in results since 1999.
Intensity is on the side of supporters of stricter gun control in general – 44 percent of Americans are “strongly” in favor, vs. 32 percent strongly opposed, the widest intensity gap since spring 2007. And on banning high-capacity clips, strong supporters outnumber strong opponents by an 18-point margin, 47 percent vs. 29 percent.
At the same time, the highest intensity is in opposition to banning handguns overall – 56 percent “strongly” opposed, vs. 20 percent strong support.
In the wake of the shooting, at least two Senators — Dianne Feinstein and Frank Lautenberg — have said they would introduce gun control related measures in the next Congress and several Democratic Senators who have been generally very supportive of gun rights have indicated a willingness to consider some forms of control in the wake of the incident on Friday. In reality, though, there are several factors that make the odds of any serious gun control legislation actually passing seem fairly low. Leaving aside the issue of the House of Representatives, which seems unlikely to pass anything as draconian as the “assault weapons” ban that Feinstein and Lautenberg are proposing, there is still an open question of how well such a bill would do in the Senate. The are several Senators with generally pro-gun rights voting records up for re-election in 2014 in states that were won by Mitt Romney last month, and you can add to that list North Carolina’s Kay Hagen given the fact that the state Democratic Party in the Tarheel State seems to be in fairly bad shape. This, combined with the fact that any votes on any proposed legislation will likely be many months from now after the memory of Newtown has faded in the public mind, and I’d say it’s quite unlikely that we’ll see any significant legislation favored by the gun control lobby come out of Congress any time while Barack Obama is President.
Heh. my suggestion is that the standard allowable firearm be a 18th century flintlock rifle. Anything more modern than that, we regulate to the max. And yes, that means registration, mental tests, background checks, five-year licenses, training, and continued required training. Plus treat gun injuries like injuries from wild beasts kept in captivity: strict liability.
For all the 2nd Amendment fetishists, they can have their flintlock rifles and have to deal with casting their own bullets and using gunpowder.
I disagree with my fellow gun safety advocates, but I think the best we can get is:
1. making background checks universal ( applying to both commercial and private sales)
2. expanding those background checks include people with a history of mental illness.
James Fallows thinks that with “gun rights” defender Joe Manchin now on board for gun safety legislation, this time may be different . Here is a gun safety proposal from the article:
Regarding point 1, as a fervent gun rights supporter I am actually in favor of such a system ( I would feel much more comfortable doing face to face sales if I had the ability to verify the person I am selling to was not a prohibited possessor), but here’s a few things to consider: first, there is a pretty severe privacy issue involved here. If you make it universal, you open it up to abuse by people like employers, landlords screening potential tenants, etc who would basically use it to check if someone was a “bad person” (similarly to how credit checks are abused today for much the same purpose.) The real important issue here is that there are many categories that put someone into prohibited possessor status, and not all of them involve criminal behavior or even mental illness….all NICS does now is return a proceed, denied, or hold. It does not give out specifics as to why an individual was denied. So if you open it up to everyone and you have employers using it to screen people someone who has renounced their citizenship is going to appear the same as a felon, because they would both return as denied.
There are ways to get around that, but they aren’t foolproof and it’s worth pointing out that such a system would still be basically voluntary in practice. Short of a confiscatory gun ban (which setting aside the legal issues would never pass due to practical issues alone) there is no way that you will be able to stop under the table gun sales in this country (they occur frequently anyway…I’m not talking about the infamous “gun show loophole,” I’m talking about transactions that are already straight up illegal under existing laws.)
Regarding point 2, that is already the case. If you have ever been adjudicated mentally defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution you are required to indicate as such on the Form 4473 (the standard form you are required to fill out before purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer) and are prohibited from purchase. The issue is that a) despite the 2007 NICS Improvement Act some states still do a really poor job of passing the information on to the federal NICS database, so the information isn’t necessarily accurate and b) the flip side of that is that if we cast too wide a net with what constitutes “mental illness” worthy of having your right to own firearms suspended you could have the opposite of the desired effect, and trying to get a mistake in the NICS database correct is a very long and painful process. For example, I dealt with a severe bout of depression…it was managed and I was never a danger to others (and not really to myself either), and one of the very few things I enjoyed during that time was going target shooting (including yes, with an evil black rifle/”assault weapon.”) Should I have had my right to own firearms removed because of that? Another example: I have friends with autistic children/youth. They are just normal kids with some mental issues, not “ticking time bombs ready to snap” or whatever junk the media might imagine in the wake of this shooting…one of the things that they enjoy is target shooting (the repetitiveness/precision required really appeals to some autistics.) Should those kids lose their right to own arms when they hit adulthood?
I’m not trying to directly compare depression or autism to psychopaths, but as everyone should be well aware of, mental illness isn’t like physical illness where you can definitively say “so and so has cancer or diabetes or the flu or whatever, this is the likely prognosis and the most effective treatment.” All I’m saying is that mental illness is complex and drawing a dividing line between “this person is too ill to own guns” vs “this person has a mental illness but should still be able to own firearms” is going to be difficult, all the more so with the absolutely criminal state of the mental health system in this country. You are already seeing this with the recent news that the VA has been adding veterans to the NICS list because they have been declared unable to manage their own finances. I don’t understand how suffering a TBI that renders you unable to comprehend numbers effectively so you need someone else to help you with money (but with zero danger to yourself or others) somehow means you should be unable to own firearms.
Again, I’m not trying to shoot down either idea, because I am in favor of both in theory, I’m just pointing out that there are some pretty severe implementation issues in practice that make the issue, like most things, much more complex in execution than some simplistic “well obviously we should do this and it will be easy/simple” reasoning.
Assuming that grenade launcher story was true (and I really really doubt it) that sale was already illegal under federal law…and has been since 1934. Grenade launchers are a destructive device and are heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act. In order for that sale to be legal the buyer would’ve had to obtain a tax stamp from the ATF, a process that involves a full federal and local background check (on scale with the one required to get a Secret security clearance), submitting fingerprints to the ATF, getting your local law enforcement official to sign off on it (or alternatively forming a legal trust and registering that trust with the ATF), and informing the ATF any time you take it across state lines, even if just for a couple of hours. Also, with grenade launchers each individual grenade is considered a destructive device, subject to all the same regulations/registration/etc as the launcher itself.
Now, if it was a flare launcher, that’s a different story…they appear cosmetically similar to grenade launchers like the M203 but they are literally physical incapable of firing grenades (you can only fire flares or noise making cartridges out of them) so they aren’t regulated under the NFA. Which is the point.
Regarding the revolver and rifle suggestion, that is just stupid. That’s really all I can say to that, because it’s just blindingly ignorant. For starters, what about shotguns? Are they evil weapons of death too or are they the “good” weapons that only hunters use? What about pump/slide action weapons? Are they “good” weapons that only hunters use or do they allow “too high” of a rate of fire?
But hey, I’m glad that we’re all focusing on guns instead of fixing the absolutely criminal mental health system/stigmatization of mental illness in this country.
And just to answer a question that one of the readers in Fallows’ piece raises, that 2007 NICS Improvement Act was passed in part due to lobbying and action by the NRA. So there’s one thing that “gun owners” have done to help make things safer.
I don’t even like the NRA for a whole variety of reasons, but making it sound like gun owners as a whole are just a bunch of blood thirsty idiots who are intentionally keeping silent about ideas to make things safer is ignorant. As a fervent gun rights supporter, I’m not going to “lend my voice” to “fix” something like a high capacity mag ban or an assault weapons ban because they are dumb ideas that won’t do anything to prevent incidents like this from happening. I have plenty of ideas about how to limit (extremely rare) incidents of this nature, but none of them involve banning weapons based on cosmetic features or setting arbitrary limits on the amount of rounds a magazine can hold, so I doubt that anyone who is supporting gun control legislation would really be interested in hearing from me. Which is kind of the point/issue.
Well, I appreciate your criticisms and I certainly agree that there are big implementation and privacy issues. The devil is in the details, as with any plan. However I’m all for hearing our ideas. I do think its a lot easier to shoot down ideas than to present your own. Frankly , I hate a discussion where people just criticize, rather than propose. Throw your own ideas up there, and see how they compare .
I think your suggestions about improving the NCIS system is good. There are definitely going to be privacy issues and defining “mental health” is going to be problematic. My own idea of what to do involves licensing , rather than gun bans, and requiring weapons and safety training and some kind of certification that you can be a safe and responsible gun owner. I will say that ANY solution will involve some diminution of convenience of purchase ,intrusion on privacy rights and limitation on your ability to acquire certain firearms. That can’t be avoided.
Please note that in all of the scenaria presented above, the Newton tragedy would not have been affected. The sane (?) mother owned all the guns in question and had followed all pertinent Federal and state laws, IIRC.
I have issues with the Canadian restriction on magazines as well as the pointless (now abolished) long gun registry and the classification of firearms into either nonrestricted ,restricted, or prohibited categories based on often arbitrary or practically irrelevant features, but their PAL (Possession and Acquisition License) system actually isn’t that bad. In order to possess or purchase a firearm or ammunition you must have a PAL. In order to get a PAL you have to attend and pass a safety course approved by the RCMP, pass a background check, and there is a 28 day waiting period. Once you have a PAL you can walk into a store and buy a firearm without going through a check like the NICS check here (because you’ve already been vetted as someone who can own a firearm) and you can order firearms through the mail across province boundaries without having to go through an FFL like we do in the states for interstate transactions, since again, you have already been vetted as someone who can own a firearm (assuming you provide a copy of your PAL to the business you are ordering from, of course, and assuming you have it shipped to the address listed on your PAL).
So in the U.S. that system would basically add another class of FFL. What most people don’t know is that there are already several classes of FFL’s…the one that everyone commonly refers to as an FFL is a Type 01, which allows you to engage in the business of selling firearms; these are the people who you have to fill out a 4473 to buy from and who you must go through if you are conducting business across state lines. There are also different licenses for pawn shops, manufacturers, importers, etc. The one I want to highlight is the Type 03, which is commonly referred to as a “Curio & Relic” license (or collector’s license.) This is a type of license that allows you to have guns designated as C&R (anything 50 years old or anything that is unique/historically significant enough to have the ATF deem it C&R) shipped directly to your house across state lines, without needing to go through a Type 01 FFL like you have to do for an interstate transaction involving a modern weapon.
So what I would do is add another class of FFL for individual owners and model it on the C&R license, except make it for all Title I (i.e., non-NFA weapons, i.e. “normal” guns), and add a requirement to pass a safety course before getting the license. So you would take the safety course, apply for the license (at which point a basic NICS check would be conducted on you) and once you had the license you would be free to conduct face to face transactions or order firearms through the mail. You could even make it like Canada’s PAL and make it a requirement to possess or buy ammunition. Title II weapons (machine guns, destructive devices) would remain under the current stringent tax stamp regime, although I think that stuff like short barreled rifles and short barreled shotguns should be removed from being Title II (it is dumb that a quarter of an inch difference on a shotgun or rifle barrel can net you the same felony conviction/10 years in federal PMITA prison/$10,000 fine as having an unlicensed/unlawful machine gun or grenade launcher), and if we’re shooting for the moon here I would reopen the machine gun registry (I won’t get into that detail unless you really want me to but the short version is that there’s a dumb restriction there that really has no logical basis in reality besides “I’m a Senator who hates guns”).
Now, the issues. First, neither the safety class nor the application process can be unnecessarily onerous. I’m not saying it needs to be a rubber stamp where no one is rejected , but the issue you run into with stuff like that which is local in nature is that people like Bloomberg can ignore the spirit of the law while obeying its letter and turn their local areas into their own little gun-free fiefdoms (well, legally acquired guns anyway) by doing stuff like making the application office only be open from 11:00 to 11:03 on the third Monday of the month but only if it’s an odd numbered day. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but stuff like this really does happen already with stuff like CCW licenses in certain jurisdictions where the state has passed certain laws but the locals do not agree with them so they do everything in their power to prevent the state law from being effective. So there would need to be a federal minimum standard of where licensing offices would be located and when they would be open (unless the govt is willing to invest in a massive increase in the ATF’s ability to process paperwork making licenses a centrally located/mail in thing just isn’t feasible…they can barely keep up with the various types of FFLs and NFA/Title II tax stamps as it is).
Second, you run into the issue of “what happens if I get a license and then get convicted of a felony, how do we revoke the license?” This is a tricky one since the whole point of having the license is to avoid having to do a NICS check every time you buy a gun (and if you require a NICS check every time you buy a gun anyway the what’s the point of having a license?) Right now it’s fairly easy since FFL’s are (relatively) small enough in number that the ATF can keep a database of current FFL’s that FFL’s (Type 01 or otherwise) can verify against when they get a license to ship a firearm to in another state, and despite a common belief that they aren’t doing anything the ATF actually does keep a pretty close eye on people who are “in the business of selling firearms” without a license, so someone who is running a firearms related business with a revoked FFL would get noticed pretty quickly (although despite the right wing stereotype of a bunch of jackbooted thugs the ATF is actually pretty lenient when it comes to stuff like that…you have to really violate the law, like intentionally export/import dozens of unlicensed machine guns or something, before they’ll really come down on you.) However, that probably wouldn’t be feasible with a database that would tens of millions of different entries (I dunno, maybe it would in which case problem solved.) If it’s not feasible, I honestly don’t have a good solution to that one.
And of course all this would be secondary to improving the way we approach mental health in this country, but I know that’s a pipe dream because it’s tough to get people fired up (on either side) when you start talking about the need to fix our ability to institutionalize people while simultaneously improving care so institutionalization actually treats people as opposed to being a dumping ground for people who are “different” that is little better than prison. Guns are so much easier to rally the base (again, on both sides of the aisle.) That said, one thing that kind of crosses across the mental health/guns spectrum is keeping firearms (or any other deadly weapons, really) locked up/otherwise inaccessible when you are living with someone who is mentally ill enough to pose a threat to themselves or others. I think storage requirements in general are stupid (despite being responsible common sense) because they are unenforceable without a literal police state, but I might be willing to make an exception if you are living with someone who was no exaggeration judged a danger to themselves or others by an actual court/mental health authority/etc. It’s definitely responsible common sense, I’m just not 100% if I want to make it an actual law because you’re getting into some pretty serious civil liberties territory there. And I’m not just talking “MAH GUN RAGHTS,” anything that involves an agent of the state inspecting something in your home by law can and will be subject to all sorts of other search and seizure types of abuses, that’s just the way that law enforcement works.
@Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:
Yup, and that’s why like I said, all this should be secondary to massive changes in the way we view and treat mental health issues in this country. The one thing I can think of that may have impacted it is if the guns were locked up, although I don’t know if that was the case or not and it should be mentioned that “gun safes” are not some impregnable fortress that only a highly trained safecracker can get into. First off, most people don’t have safes, they have security cabinets that are intended to keep out casual unauthorized users (like children or drunk friends)…give me five minutes with a crowbar and sledgehammer (or less if I have an angle grinder) and I’ll be in. The same applies to actual gun safes, just increase the amount of time accordingly. Actual safes are intended as a deterrent against smash and grab burglars, they aren’t going to stop somebody determined from getting your guns. So keeping your guns locked up when you live with someone who might pose a threat to themselves or others is responsible common sense, but we shouldn’t be under any illusions that it is this magical cure-all…the ACTUAL cure-all would be providing a system that allows people like that to get treatment, including being placed in in-patient care if they need it.
Also, holy crap, that post got out of hand…sorry about the length, if you want the tl;dr version it’s institute a licensing system that basically gives everyone a limited FFL provided they can pass a background check and safety class and make sure that the safety class/application process isn’t unduly onerous.
it’ll wane after a few weeks, these are the same fickle people who get all gung ho about (insert over reported news item here) and get bored with it. maybe they should ban insane kids from going to school to kill others?
@Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:
You can reach the newton scenario by requiring that if there is going to be an authorized user of the firearm other than the owner, the said authorized user must fulfill the same qualifications and under go the same training as the owner.
So if the mother wants the son to use her guns, the son would have to comply with the same licensing requirements.
I feel that if you have a mentally disturbed child , you should be required to store your guns in a secure location outside the home. I think you you are fooling yourself if you think you can safely store your guns at home in that situation.
As for mental health, you should understand that the Its the Republican who are so gung Ho for gun rights who are the first to limit mental health services .
Indeed, I find it interesting that gun rights folks who didn’t care about mental health rights prior to Friday all of a sudden see mental health services as the key to everything!
Expand mental health services , just don’t take away my access to my fanciest fun toys!
Why do progressives feel that being a snarky ass convinces anyone. Should the goverment be allowed to limit speech to hand operated printing presses or freedom of the press to the town crier?
How about allowing people to sue law enforcement and the government if the government fails to protect them? If the government is going to take responsbility for people protection, then people should be allowed to sue the government when they are harmed by criminals.
And since progressives seem to only understand snark, how about limiting the secret service or all law enforcement to flint locks since they are part of the militia?
Seems to me that trying to start up an “authorized user” program is unduly complex. Either someone should be licensed to own or use guns or they should not. And if someone in the house is not licensed, then they shouldn’t be using the guns.
Here’s where things begin to get dodgy. I think what you are advocating for is good practice, but I’m not entirely sure how to legislate it, or how it would be enforced if legislated.
Can you articulate your argument against magazine capacity limits. I understand that whatever capacity is chosen will be arbitrary, but why is the concept inherently flawed?
Likewise I’d be interested in your rational for opening up the machine gun registry.
Regarding the machine gun registry, as I’ve said before, machine guns are currently allowed to be owned by “civilians” (I hate using that term because it implies that the police and military are equivalent, but it’s the easiest shorthand to use for non-gov/non-police/non-military personnel, so I’ll use it here.) So it’s not like I’m suddenly throwing the doors wide open to ownership where none was available prior. Right now the registry is closed, so unless you are a licensed dealer with a demonstration letter on file from a local PD or federal agency (basically an end around the backdoor legislation that closed the registry in the first place) the supply of machine guns is finite. As I’ve said above, the process to legally own a machine gun is extensive, involves numerous background checks, fingerprinting, and right now takes somewhere around 6 months from start to finish before you have the tax stamp in hand and can legally take possession of the weapon. Since it is a closed market, the prices are through the roof (guns that would only cost a few hundred dollars due to the simple construction and operation are worth at least several thousand due to their status as registered guns.) So basically my thinking is that if you want to get any type of gun control law passed you are going to need some sort of compromise; ramming through legislation just isn’t going to happen because the NRA (and gun owners in general) will eat whoever votes for it alive. Opening the registry is a low cost way to loosen up pointless restrictions on gun owners with zero impact to public safety (the amount of times a legal machine gun has been used in the commission of a crime is somewhere in the low single digits, and every single one of those times has been a police officer using his department issued weapon, with one exception…and the one exception was in self defense where the prosecution was politically motivated; the individual in question was eventually acquitted on all charges.) Another way would be removing the regulation of Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs) and Short Barreled Shotguns (SBSs) from the NFA and the accompanying tax stamp requirement. Like I said above, it is flat out ludicrous that chopping a quarter of an inch from a shotgun barrel without a tax stamp can net me the same 10 years in prison/$10,000 fine/federal felony as possession of an unregistered machine gun. Again, basically zero cost to public safety. So the rationale is its a tradeoff. Want to increase restrictions on gun owners by a relatively moderate amount with a PAL/FFL for all type system? Fine, give us something in return by opening up the registry and removing SBRs/SBSs from the NFA, actions that in all honesty are relatively moderate (despite all the hysterical screaming you’ll hear about GANGSTERS WITH CONCEALABLE MACHINE GUNS BLOOD IN THE STREETS) with no impact to public safety. Hell, I’d be okay with maintaining the limitation the ATF has on open-bolt semi-automatic weapons…all open bolt weapons, regardless of function are treated like machine guns, since those are easily convertible to automatic fire and as such were the source of much of the actual (illegal) automatic weapons that criminals were carrying in the ’80s since there’s a clearly demonstrable public safety benefit there.
As far as mag capacity, first off, as you say it’s completely arbitrary. Second off, it’s not like the government is going to repossess and destroy all “high capacity” magazines after a ban passes; even if a ban on transfer is passed this time (as Feinstein has indicated her bill will include) come on, you’re telling me that people intent on breaking the law anyway won’t be able to get their hands on “high capacity” mags anyway illegally in such a circumstance? We’ve tried to ban drug possession and use for going on half a century now, how’s that working out? It would be a ban that would have zero practical impact that would restrict a constitutional right on an arbitrary basis for very little (if any) gain.
And yeah, I fully appreciate the irony/hypocrisy that a lot of the GOP politicians who are screaming about gun rights right now are also the same ones who have been responsible for the destruction of the mental health system. Not a member of the GOP and I’ve felt that better mental healthcare needed to be a priority long before this tragedy.
Interesting points on the machine gun registry. Need to think about them.
If it allows grandfathering, the measure has no real teeth… at least not in the short term. That said, if it prevents the sale or transfer of grandfathered equipment, then it has more umph (though the question of effect is still dubious).
I think for it to really work, one would have to go the route they did in Canada and not allow any grandfathered magazines. I don’t think that would pass here, but it’s worth a try for legislators who truly believe in gun control and there would have to be a big “buy back” program as part of it. The goal wouldn’t be to get the total number down to zero, but to greatly deplete the current stocks.
As far as the arbitrary thing, that argument holds no water with me. Every regulation is by its nature arbitrary.
BTW, thanks for taking the time for the “TL, but still read it” replies. Its great to read thoughful proposals for regulation.