Adorably confused American public wants more gun control, but not too much

Americans are, God bless them, ambivalent on what exactly they’d like us to do to solve our nation’s love affair with guns and violence.  New polls show increased support for gun control, yet still a lot of ambivalence when you read between the lines.

I wonder whether our violent crime rate isn’t part of the problem – people are scared, and worry that the NRA’s line about “if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” isn’t far from the truth.  People worry about crime in their neighborhoods, and worry that gun control won’t be effective enough. It would be interesting to see a poll delve into the reasons people have for supporting and opposing specific gun control efforts.

Gallup, which isn’t always the most reliable polling service of late, has a new poll which includes some mixed messages on gun control.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., Gallup finds 58% of Americans in favor of strengthening the laws covering the sale of firearms, up from 43% in 2011. Current support for stricter gun laws is the highest Gallup has measured since January 2004, but still not nearly as high as it was in the 1990s.

[T]he new poll also finds that a record-high 47% of Americans favor passing new gun laws, up from 35% in 2011. Since Gallup first asked this question in 2000, majorities have consistently preferred enforcing the current laws more strictly without passing new laws.

Americans’ views on the sale of assault rifles are unchanged. The slight majority, 51%, remain opposed to making it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles.

Notably, the 44% in favor of assault rifle bans in response to this trend question is nearly identical to the 42% Gallup found favoring assault and semi-automatic bans in a Dec. 18 poll. In that survey, participants responded to a question asking about possible approaches to preventing mass shootings at schools, similar to the shooting that occurred Dec. 14 in Connecticut.

It seems Americans, who always complain about Washington dilly-dallying, want to do something, but not too much.  It’s unclear how many more children need to die before Americans figure out what they do want.

A Huffington Post/YouGov poll has even more encouraging numbers for gun control advocates.

In the new HuffPost/YouGov survey of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 21-22, 55 percent of Americans said that gun control laws should be made more strict, 13 percent said they should be made less strict, and 27 percent said there should be no change. Support for stricter laws in the new poll is even higher than it was in another HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted immediately after the shooting took place, when 50 percent of respondents said that that gun control laws should be made stricter.

HuffPost notes that, interestingly, the NRA still has higher positives than negatives, but I think that can be turned around with the right campaign, especially in light of recent events.  I hear from gun control advocates all the time that the NRA doesn’t represent average gun owners, rather, they represent far-right extremists and the gun industry itself.  If that’s true, we need a long-term campaign to educate the public as to just who the NRA really is.

boy with gun gun control

Boy with gun via Shutterstock

There’s more evidence that the mass-murder of twenty children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut has shaken up the Republican lockstep support for the NRA, and opposition to any new gun control.  Incoming Utah Republican US House member Christ Stewart is open to some limited gun control measures, so long as we do something to address mental illness (someone needs to inform Stewart that his party is the greatest impediment on both issues).

GOP Senator Tom Coburn, a bit of a right-wing nut, is expected to be one of the largest impediments to passing new gun control legislation.  After the VA Tech massacre, Coburn was effective in watering down additional gun legislation at the time.  It’s probably time we wrap extremists like Coburn around the GOP’s next and shove them towards the permanent minority status they deserve.

Jesus lovers are arguing that gun control isn’t the answer.  God is.  Isn’t that always the easy answer.  God cancer?  Pray.
Mass murder?  Pray.  Rampant gun violence in our country and our culture?  Pray.  While I have nothing against prayer, religion has always had a interesting contradiction that has never been sufficiently explained to me.  We’re told to pray when something bad happens, or is about to happen, but we’re also told not to blame God when the bad thing happens anyway.  It seems that we’re not supposed to expect God to fix the thing we’re praying for.  And honestly, no one really expects God to cure cancer, or to cure gun violence in America.

And there’s a larger problem with the “God is missing” argument.  Europe (especially western Europe) is far less religions than we are here in America.  Yet Europe, which watches the same moveis, and plays with the same video games, that we do, and believes in God and goes to church far less than we do, has far fewer of these crazy massacres than we do.   The problem isn’t just God.  And it isn’t just violent video games and movies.

If it’s not the ridiculous excess of guns we have in this country – we’ve got 300 million firearms – and it’s not the movies and games, and it’s not God, then what is it?  Are we just bad people?

That’s the underlying question that Republicans and the NRA need to answer: If guns aren’t the problem, then are they simply saying that Americans are simply less moral, and more evil, than Europeans?



Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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