Support for gun control withers despite high-profile shootings
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As discussion of the shootings in Aurora, Colo., shifts toward whether the event justifies action taken to expand gun control, it’s important to recognize how opinions on gun ownership have shifted in recent years.
Despite events such as the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, the Beltway sniper spree in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002, the shooting at Virginia Tech University in 2007 and the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting in 2009, support for gun control has steadily declined nationwide.
A Gallup poll conducted in January found that 50 percent of people are at least somewhat satisfied by the state of America’s gun control laws, while 42 percent either very or somewhat dissatisfied. That compares with 38 percent satisfied and 57 percent dissatisfied in 2001.
Of those dissatisfied, a significantly larger amount, 25 percent to 8 percent, want stricter controls to be enacted than not, but with the rise of right-to-carry laws and the expiration of the assault weapons ban, gun rights advocates have little reason to be dissatisfied with current laws.
A more recent poll, conducted in April by Pew Research, also indicated a change in priorities on the issue. Forty-nine percent of Americans place higher importance on the right to own a gun, compared with 45 percent who prioritize controls on gun ownership. That difference, the second time Pew polls have recorded more emphasis on gun rights than on gun controls, compares with 66 percent focusing on gun control and 29 percent focusing on gun rights in 2000.
This leaves those calling for a legislative response to the shootings in Colorado in a precarious position. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo. called Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” for a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., placed some of the blame for congressional inaction on gun control on the influence of the National Rifle Association.
“The gun organizations go out to defeat people in states where they can, and they pour a lot of money in and some people lost office after they voted for the legislation before,” Feinstein said on “Fox News Sunday.”
But Congress’ most prominent action on gun control, which allowed the assault weapons ban to expire, is favored by the public as well as gun organizations, 53 percent to 43 percent according to Gallup.
And the Supreme Court, in its 2008 ruling against the District of Columbia’s ban on handgun possession and its 2010 ruling against a similar ban in Chicago, has done its part to strengthen the legal precedent against gun control initiatives.