We’ve previously reported on the pandemic gun wave, in which Americans bought more than 40 million guns in 2020 and 2021, and how that alludes to growing concerns about crime and violence, although many are calling for tougher gun control legislation. A new investigation this week, conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, helps us better understand these two seemingly contradictory trends.
Seventy-one percent of respondents to this survey said gun laws should be stricter, the highest share of support for gun restrictions since the poll launched in October 2017 and 10 percentage more than that year. The desire for more regulations stems from the fact that a large portion of Americans believe gun violence is a pressing national issue, with four in 10 respondents saying they think it is at least somewhat likely that they will be victims of gun violence over the next five years. Young Americans fear being shot more than older people, while blacks and Hispanics are more than twice as likely as whites to say they or someone they know has been victimized. armed violence. At the same time, 60% of respondents said it was important for people to be able to own firearms for personal protection, with a slight majority – 52% – stressing the importance of both preventing firearms mass and to ensure that people can own firearms for self-defence.
From these responses, the researchers determined that Americans may have a more nuanced view of gun violence and political needs than media accounts often suggest. “They don’t see a direct conflict between protecting gun ownership and implementing gun violence prevention policies,” David Sterrett, senior fellow at the AP-NORC Center, said in a statement. Press.
John Roman, principal investigator at the University of Chicago’s NORC, agrees. “Americans have a more sophisticated approach that you see reflected in political discourse,” he said. “But you also see the fear, which is that Americans are afraid of being victims of gun violence, and they want to have their own weapons to defend themselves.”
In March, Roman conducted a separate NORC survey which found that early gun buyers during the pandemic – which helped increase gun ownership nationwide – were younger, more diverse and as or more likely than pre-pandemic owners to support a range of gun rights extensions. But what the March results didn’t explain was whether new gun owners already had these pro-gun rights tendencies or if they changed their minds after buying a gun. fire.
“What this new survey does is it suggests, I think, that new gun owners were already sharing those views with people who owned guns and so they were changing their gun ownership to reflect their existing preferences, rather than buying a gun and then changing their preferences,” Roman said. “You would expect that if people who didn’t own guns changed their political preferences and that motivated them to buy a gun, you would see a shift in general preferences away from gun regulation. fire and towards a more unlimited use of firearms. And you don’t see that in this new survey.
The results are sure to be good news for gun reform supporters who want to build on the recently enacted bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first federal gun legislation in nearly three decades.
But the caveats remain. On the one hand, support for restrictions tends to grow following high-profile mass shootings, as we have seen since recent events in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. And then there’s the long history of gun control as a topic of political discussion: the popularity of gun restrictions among voters in general has rarely translated into concrete changes within the political system. for various reasons.
Still, the new survey shows clear support for tougher gun regulations, especially those that limit who can buy guns, such as people with a history of mental health issues. Respondents who think gun violence is increasing in their area were also more likely to support gun reforms, even controlling for political partisanship. It could be, according to the researchers, that the prevalence of shootings has reached a new level of saturation in the cultural psyche.
“The poll highlights that gun violence has touched the lives of many Americans, especially black and Hispanic people, and the public is very concerned about it,” said Jens Ludwig, a professor at the Harris School of Public. Policy from the University of Chicago. Press release. “Despite the polarizing climate surrounding these issues, the poll also reveals strong public support for gun violence prevention policies.”