The Pew Research Center released a poll today that found Americans support gun control over gun rights, 49 percent to 42 percent. A shift in favor of gun control would be expected after last week’s horrific shooting in Newtown. But Politico is reporting on this as if it’s a major attitude change:
More Americans prioritize gun control above Second Amendment rights by the widest margin since President Barack Obama took office, according to a new poll released Thursday in wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Forty-nine percent of those polled said it’s more important to control gun ownership, compared to 42 percent who say it’s more important to protect Americans’ rights to own guns, according to a Pew Research Center Poll.
The Pew poll showed a slight shift toward gun control that wasn’t apparent following a July shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Following that shooting, 47 percent thought it was more important to control gun ownership and 46 percent said it was more important to protect gun rights, according to Pew, within the poll’s margin of error.
That seven-point gap isn’t particularly significant. Support for gun rights is still much higher than its been at almost any point in the past 20 years, and support for gun control is much lower. In the same Pew poll in 2007, Americans favored gun control above gun rights by 28 points. In 2000, the gap was 37 percent, and in 1993, it was 23 percent.
According to Pew’s data, mass shootings don’t tend to impact public opinion very much, if at all. The poll found little change after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. The Tucson shooting in 2011 and the Aurora shooting this year had no discernible impact. After Aurora, support for gun control vs. gun rights was split, 47 percent to 46.
Maybe public opinion is still shifting, and Obama will be able to rally enough popular support to push through stricter gun control laws. But this poll certainly doesn’t show he gained a mandate on gun policy.