In the wake of the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School, commentators are wondering if there is public support for stronger gun laws. But polling shows voters are ready. Several patterns emerge from our ongoing bipartisan work for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, along with other public polling.
Voters Have Never Supported Weaker Gun Laws.
While Gallup's trend line may show declining support for stronger gun laws, it also shows a consistent lack of support for weaker gun laws. Yet that's exactly what's come to pass. Washington has let the assault weapon ban expire, and now allows guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains. States have moved to allow guns in schools, college campuses, bars and playgrounds. Yet barely 10 percent of the electorate has been clamoring for "less strict" laws.
There is Widespread Support for a Variety of Common-Sense Gun Laws.
My firm's own polling in 2011 showed majority support for a whole host of gun laws, such as requiring background checks for every purchase (89 percent), tracking bulk purchases of assault weapons (81 percent) and banning high-capacity magazines (58 percent). And we found majorities strongly support nearly every provision we tested.
Even In Gun Households or With Gun Owners.
The above provisions also received strong, widespread support by voters in gun households. And Republican pollster Frank Luntz showed, also for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, gun owners (including NRA members) to be strongly supportive of background checks, requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns and other provisions. Further, his polling shows about nine in ten NRA members feel the Second Amendment goes "hand in hand with keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals."
Post-Newtown Polls Show Even More Support for Action.
Polls are starting to trickle in, and the results are consistent. This Washington Post/ABC News poll shows majority support for stricter gun laws, for a semiautomatic handgun ban, and for a ban on high-capacity magazines. Half also say this shooting "reflects broader problems in American society," more than after past shootings. And this Huffington Post/YouGov poll shows half want to see stricter gun laws. More also feel stronger gun laws, not more guns, make us safe.
This Is Not About Control. It's About Public Safety.
Stop using the phrase "gun control." No matter what Nate Silver says, this is not a neutral term, and gun law advocates dropped it long ago. Pew and other outlets still use the phrase, but in my view it conjures up images of "control" for its own sake. We hardly use the word "control" for other sets of laws.
Demand a Plan.
While the women of Sandy Hook bravely stood between their charges and a madman, those who support more lax gun laws refused to go on Meet The Press to defend their position (and the NRA went silent online). Families deserve action, not silence. If you're ready for Washington to take real steps forward on guns, Demand a Plan from President Obama and your elected officials.