Public opinion regarding the balance between gun control and protecting gun rights has flipped in the last ten years according to a survey by Pew Research. Not only that, but trends show this change continuing into the foreseeable future. In 2004 60% of Americans said gun control was more important than protecting the rights of gun owners. Today 52% of Americans say the opposite; that protecting the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms per the Second Amendment to the Constitution is more important than increased gun control. This is not only a major paradigm shift, but will have profound policy implications.
It was only two years ago that Obama appointed Joe Biden to lead a task force assigned to develop stricter gun control measures and present them to Congress. In a surprise move, the proposals were roundly defeated in the Senate. This was Obama’s first real legislative defeat on a major policy issue on which he staked his political capital and left many inside the beltway scratching their heads. Policy makers had expected that using the tragedy of Sandy Hook and Obama’s bully pulpit would assure easy passage of tougher gun rules. When opponents pointed out that nothing in the bill would have prevented Sandy Hook since Adam Lanza stole the handguns he used in the massacre and didn’t use a semiautomatic rifle at all, the public responded. Second Amendments advocates and gun rights activists had successfully motivated the country to their side and Congress responded by defeating Obama’s attempts at gun control.
Gun control advocates appear to have passed their high water mark in the United States and are now cresting downward. Not only do more Americans oppose stricter gun control measures than at any time in the last 30 years, but many now support rolling back existing measures. The recent and growing movement to allow open carry of firearms in public spaces now has now become law in one form or another in 42 states. One could argue that the more Obama and anti gun groups speak out about increase gun control, the public moves in the opposite direction.
Perhaps the explanation is simple. Americans took their gun rights for granted the same way they take all their civil rights for granted. Few Americans alive today have had to fight for the right to vote, or own property or train with firearms, those battles were won decades ago. Decades ago many semi interested Americans took for granted that there was a Second Amendment right to bear arms. Now, after a decade of feeling like that right was in danger, they have rallied to preserve it.