Gun Control Continues To Lose Ground

As the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting approaches, Emily Badger observes that public opinion has shifted strongly in favor of gun rights over gun control:

For the first time since Pew began asking the question two decades ago, a majority of Americans now say that gun 12-10-2014-2-19-42-PMrights are more important than gun control — a striking shift in public opinion over both the last generation and just the last few years. As recently as December 2012, in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, 51 percent of people surveyed by Pew said it was more important to control gun ownership than protect the rights of gun owners.

That consensus has since disappeared, confirming the fears of many gun-control advocates that outrage after Newtown wouldn’t last long.

What’s most striking in Pew’s new data is that views have shifted more in favor of gun rights since then among nearly every demographic group, including women, blacks, city-dwellers, parents, college graduates, millennials and independents. The two groups that haven’t budged? Hispanics and liberal Democrats.

Aaron Blake adds:

While the numbers are striking, this isn’t really all that new.

Guns12Polls have long shown this trend toward gun rights over gun control.

Here’s Gallup’s version. In 2000, 62 percent wanted stricter gun control. Today, it’s 47 percent, and 52 percent either want gun laws kept as their are or scaled back. Those numbers are essentially the same as Pew’s. You’ll notice the blip on Gallup’s chart in 2013. That was in the immediate aftermath of Newtown. For a short time, people wanted more gun control. But it was just a blip, and the underlying currents of the gun issue didn’t change.

As Mark Follman points out, school shootings haven’t stopped happening – they just don’t get as much press as Newtown did:

In the two years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, no school shooting has claimed as many lives, nor ones as young, as on that terrible day. But fatal gun attacks at schools and on college campuses remain a fixture of American life. They have occurred once every five weeks on average since Sandy Hook, including two attacks—one in Santa Monica and another near Seattle—in which four or more victims were killed. With an investigation drawing on data from dozens of news reports, Mother Jones has identified and analyzed 21 deadly school shootings in the past two years. … During the same period, there have been dozens of other gun incidents on school grounds that caused injuries, as well as seven additional cases where someone committed suicide with a firearm, but no one else died.

Morrissey thinks Obama had a chance for a constructive compromise with the pro-gun camp but blew it by asking too much:

Had the White House and its activist allies limited their push to expanded background checks, they probably would have succeeded. The NRA doesn’t oppose background checks as long as they are not so onerous as to deny people the right to possess firearms responsibly. However, the White House and Bloomberg exploited Newtown to push for a renewed assault-weapons ban and restrictions on handguns and magazines, only retreating to background checks after those efforts largely failed. By pushing for a broad gun-control regime, the White House lost any support from Republicans they might have otherwise had, and poisoned the well for any future efforts.

More Guns ≠ Less Crime?

Ingraham flags a new study that calls the core belief of gun-rights advocates into question:

The notion [that more guns mean less crime] stems from a paper published in 1997 by economists John Lott and David Mustard, who looked at county-level crime data from 1977 to 1992 and concluded that “allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths.” Of course, the study of gun crime has advanced significantly since then (no thanks to Congress). Some researchers have gone so far as to call Lott and Mustard’s original study “completely discredited.” …

Now, Stanford law professor John Donohue and his colleagues have added another full decade to the analysis, extending it through 2010, and have concluded that the opposite of Lott and Mustard’s original conclusion is true: more guns equal more crime.

“The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates” of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder, Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report. The evidence suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with an 8 percent increase in the incidence of aggravated assault, according to Donohue. He says this number is likely a floor, and that some statistical methods show an increase of 33 percent in aggravated assaults involving a firearm after the passage of right-to-carry laws.

Bullet Initiatives

Voters in Washington state decisively approved a ballot measure that closes the “gun-show loophole” by requiring almost all gun sales to be transacted through a dealer, so that buyers are subject to background checks. Kate Pickert discusses how state-level referenda are becoming the new focal point for gun control advocates:

The new national strategy is to largely bypass Congress, where recent gun control efforts have gotten little traction even in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Instead, gun control activists say they are redirecting their attention and money to states—and to voters directly. … Appealing to voters through ballot initiatives has helped advance other progressive causes in recent years, including minimum wage increases and the legalization of medical marijuana. It’s a lesson gun control advocates have taken to heart. “I think it does represent a subtle shift,” says Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who favors gun control. “What we’re seeing is a renewed effort by gun control advocates to take this issue to the voters directly.”

Frum approves of the new strategy:

When Michael Bloomberg and other deep-pocketed donors pledged themselves to gun reform after Sandy Hook, some observers imagined that he and they would waste their resources besieging the NRA on battlefields of the NRA’s choosing: state legislatures where intensely committed minorities can thwart even large-but-less-engaged majorities. The success of 594 in Washington shows the way to a very different political contest, in which majorities can make themselves felt over and against small pressure groups. Look for more such initiatives in 2016—a year when, with a president on the ballot, the electorate will be both larger and less conservative than in 2014. 594 is not the turning of the tide, of course. But it’s a harbinger of a possible new politics of guns, in which the nation’s gun rules will no longer be written by a fanatical and fearful minority of a minority.

But Charles Cooke downplays the significance of the vote:

This will presumably be touted as a great victory. But it’s really not. For a start, universal background checks represent the most modest of all the Left’s aims in this area. This was not a ban on “assault” weapons, which remain legal in Washington. It was not a reduction in magazine sizes. It was not a ban on open carry. Instead, it was a law that requires residents of the state to involve a gun dealer when they transfer a weapon to another resident within the state. (Transfers between immediate family members and between spouses or domestic partners are exempt.) I’m against these rules because I think that they are pointless and because they seem invariably to ensnare innocent and unaware people. Nevertheless, the significance of Washington’s having adopted the measure should not be overstated. That a blue state such as Washington should have convinced only 6 out of 10 people to support a billionaire-backed law that does very little in reality is a testament to the strength of support for the right to keep and bear arms even in nominally progressive areas.

And at the same time, Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment affirming the right to bear arms and instructing the judiciary to apply strict scrutiny to any restriction thereof.

A Gun Restraining Order

Jacob Sullum disapproves of a new California law, according to which a cop or family member “can seek a ‘gun violence restraining order’ that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms and authorizes police to seize any he currently owns”:

If the applicant is a cop, he must have “reasonable cause” to believe “the subject of the petition poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury” to himself or someone else. If the applicant is a relative or roommate, he must show there is a “substantial likelihood” that “the subject of the petition poses a significant danger, in the near future, of personal injury” to himself or someone else. Either standard suffices to take away someone’s right to arms for three weeks, after which he has an opportunity for a hearing where the petitioner has to show by “clear and convincing evidence” that he “poses a significant danger of personal injury” to himself or others. If the judge decides that test has been met, he issues a one-year restraining order than can be renewed annually.

Bloomberg View’s editors, meanwhile, welcome the reform:

The law enables people to temporarily prevent mentally disturbed family members from possessing or purchasing guns. A so-called gun-violence restraining order, akin to the one used to obtain restraining orders in domestic violence cases, will allow police to search for and seize firearms.

The impetus for the law, which also allows law-enforcement officials to ask for a restraining order, was the shooting in May in which a mentally disturbed man killed six and wounded a dozen near the University of California at Santa Barbara. Although the killer’s parents had expressed grave concerns about his mental state, nothing prevented him from purchasing guns.

But Sullum doubts the law would have prevented that shooting:

[A]s far as I know no one in his family was aware that he owned guns. In a case with different facts, of course, it is conceivable that one of these new restraining orders might stop a would-be mass murderer. But it’s more likely this law will become a tool of meddling and harassment that mostly affects people with no homicidal intent.

Patrick Kulp compares the law to others across the country:

Under current California law, officers are only allowed to confiscate weapons if their owner has been convicted of a violent crime, deemed mentally unstable or is subject to a restraining order for domestic violence. Connecticut, Indiana and Texas all have laws in place that allow police to seize firearms with a judge’s order, but California is the first state to extend this right to immediate family members.