Don’t Be Surprised if Gun Owners Don’t Comply With Gun Control Laws
Media outlets love reporting the results of polling on hot-button policy issues, but they rarely tell you if the people supporting proposed legislation (especially when it’s restrictive) are the same people who would be affected by it. That matters in several important ways, not least of which is that getting a law passed is not the same thing as getting people to obey. Nowhere does that matter more than in the heated debate over gun laws.
“Fifty-seven percent of registered voters in the March 24-26 survey said there should be more laws regulating guns in the country,” The Hill reported earlier this year of the results of a Hill-HarrisX poll. That the story might be a little more complicated is hinted at later in the article where the numbers are broken down along partisan lines to reveal that 79 percent of Democrats support tighter gun laws, but only 36 percent of Republicans agree.
Why does the partisan divide on gun policy matter so much? Because gun ownership has traditionally been divided just as starkly along partisan lines, “with Republican and Republican-leaning independents more than twice as likely as Democrats and those who lean Democratic to say they own a gun (44% vs. 20%),” according to 2017 polling by Pew Research. That may indicate an ideological difference, or it may be evidence that familiarity with firearms encourages a more relaxed attitude towards their legal status, or both. Whatever the reason for the deep disagreement, enforcing “tighter gun laws” would require the cooperation of the people who actually possess them and oppose such policy changes.
Recently, though, the partisan divide on gun ownership seems to be shifting. More people from the left side of the political spectrum and members of Democrat-leaning constituencies have been acquiring them as a means for self-defense. They’ve lined up to make purchases at gun stores as faith in police and institutions erodes and society fractures. But even as their partisan identity becomes less predictable, gun owners and non-owners continue to disagree on policy.
“Non-owners are 31 percentage points more likely than gun owners to say they favor creating a federal database to track all gun sales (77% vs. 46%), and there are similar sized gaps in opinion over banning high-capacity magazines and banning assault-style weapons,” Pew Research reported earlier this month. “Majorities of gun owners say they favor allowing concealed carry in more places and allowing teachers to carry guns in K-12 schools, but only about a third of non-owners support these policies,” Pew added.
Majorities of gun owners and non-owners do agree on two restrictive measures: Preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns and making private gun sales sub
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