Monday, December 17, 2012

The real reason the U.S. doesn't have more gun control

Yet I am troubled by something I've noticed in many of the calls for more robust gun control: the conceit that it's a subject America has yet to debate - that "the gun lobby" has somehow imposed its will on an unwilling citizenry, and that "a conversation about guns" must begin now. I'm all for more conversation about guns. It's just that we've already been having one for decades. ...

...gun control is a perennial controversy, the sort of controversial issue that Gallup tracks on an annual basis.

So what has been the result of decades of sustained public debate?

"Americans' support for stricter gun control laws has gradually declined over the last two decades, from 78% when this question was first asked in 1990 to 49% in 2008, and 44% in 2009 and again this year," Gallup reported in 2010 survey results. Said the organization in 2011:
A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years. 

Says Nikolas Kristoff in the Times, "We even regulate toy guns, by requiring orange tips -- but lawmakers don't have the gumption to stand up to National Rifle Association extremists and regulate real guns as carefully as we do toys. What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won't stand up to the N.R.A.?" As in so many pieces I've read, the N.R.A. as an abstract entity is cast as the all-powerful villain. Ignored are the 4 million plus individuals who belong to it and the tens of millions who are sympathetic to many of the arguments it makes. If the N.R.A. vanished tomorrow, tens of millions of gun-loving Americans would still shape the behavior of politicians. And some of those politicians aren't craven so much as in substantial agreement with the N.R.A.
--Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, on the low public support for more gun control