A recent CNN poll has shown a huge change in America’s attitude toward gun control. Just three weeks after the mass shooting in Oregon, those who oppose stricter gun control gained six points on a national poll. In his article, Jeremy Diamond explains how public opinion is changing, as well as racial and regional splits between gun control support and opposition.
The usual trend in the US is for mass shootings to prompt a shift in public support for gun control. For example, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting Connecticut, and Maryland passed assault weapons bans. Also, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced an Assault Weapons ban in congress two weeks after the shooting that almost passed. In this case however, pro-gun-rights groups seem to have won out. The poll admits a 3 point margin of error, but with a 6 point gain showing that 52% of Americans oppose stricter gun control it is undeniable that there has been a strange shift in public opinion. Even in the state where the most recent shooting occurred—Oregon—there has been a huge revival of pro-gun activism. Oregon is a very rural state, and as mentioned by Diamond in his article “two-thirds of Americans who live in rural areas oppose tighter gun control laws”. There has even been a refusal by many Oregon county Sheriffs to enforce new gun control issued in the state.
Why the change? Perhaps it has to do with the opinion that many Americans believe there should be a clear majority before new laws are passed. Diamond mentions that “About seven in 10 Americans believe it is important for most Americans to support proposed changes to gun laws before those changes are implemented. And 61% said the same of gun owners. People are less willing to take action without a majority, and according to the poll 61% think that laws should only be passed with the support of the majority of gun owners. There has also been a developing opinion that “it is important for both parties to come to a consensus before making any changes to existing gun laws” which is held by about half of poll takers. The problem with this line of thinking though is that a consensus is almost impossible. About “76% of Republicans oppose stricter gun control compared to just 25% of Democrats” so compromise or agreement on such a partisan issue is highly unlikely. If both parties followed public opinion polls then maybe they could pass legislation that has overwhelming support, but the fact that they have not done so yet makes it unlikely that they will ever do so
Perhaps people are fed up with half-measures and ineffective laws that have been forced through in the past by legislators in the aftermath of mass shootings. There have been countless gun control laws passed that promise to reduce gun crime, but have had little to no effect. Maybe there will be a shift from “Gun Control” to crime control as many Americans still support universal background checks. However, the actions of the Oregon sheriffs seems to put the effectiveness of such laws in question.