Don’t be surprised if gun owners don’t obey gun control laws – Reason.com
The media love to report poll results on hot political issues, but they rarely tell you whether the people supporting proposed legislation (especially when it is restrictive) are the same people who would be affected by it. This matters in several important ways, not the least of which is that passing a law is not the same as forcing people to obey. Nowhere does this matter more than in the heated debate over gun laws.
“Fifty-seven percent of voters registered in the March 24-26 survey said there should be more laws regulating guns in the country,” The hill reported earlier this year results from a Hill-HarrisX poll. That the story may be a bit more complicated is touched on later in the article where the numbers are broken down along partisan lines to reveal that 79% of Democrats support tougher gun laws, but only 36. % of Republicans agree.
Why is the partisan divide over gun policy so important? Because gun ownership has traditionally been divided just as sharply along partisan lines, “with Republican and Republican-leaning independents more than twice as likely as Democrats and Democrats-leaning to say they own. a firearm (44% vs. 20%) ” according to in the 2017 Pew Research polls. It 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 “tougher gun laws” would require the cooperation of those who actually own them and oppose such policy changes.
Recently, however, the partisan divide over gun ownership appears to be changing. More people from left side of the political spectrum and the members of Constituencies with democratic tendencies acquired them as a means of self-defense. They have lined up to shop at gun stores like faith in police and establishments erodes and society is fracturing. But even as their partisan identities become less predictable, gun owners and non-owners continue to disagree on politics.
“Non-owners are 31 percentage points more likely than gun owners to say they are in favor of creating a federal database to track all gun sales (77% vs. 46%), and there are similarly sized differences of opinion on banning high-capacity magazines and banning assault weapons, “Pew Research reported earlier this month. “The majority of gun owners say they are in favor of allowing concealed carrying in more places and allowing teachers to carry guns in K-12 schools, but only about a third of non-homeowners support these policies, ”added Pew.
Majority of owners and non-owners of firearms to do agree on two restrictive measures: preventing people with mental illness from purchasing firearms and subjecting private sales of firearms to background checks. This is unfortunate at first glance, because threatening the civil liberties of people with mental health problems is likely to deter them from seeking help. On the second point, requiring background checks for transfers of firearms between private parties is inapplicable when the government has no idea who owns what, and few states have registration requirements. Researchers investigating the effect of comprehensive background check laws in Colorado, Delaware and Washington have found an increase in only background checks in Delaware, according to a study published in 2018 in Injury prevention. “A plausible explanation for our results is the low compliance in our study reports,” the researchers wrote.
But trying to enforce compliance by belatedly imposing registration requirements is also a losing bet. Gun policy is a divisive issue and people know that some politicians want to ban and even confiscate what is currently legal; they do not seem inclined to make this goal easy to achieve. When Connecticut asked owners of “assault weapons” (actually, military-looking semi-automatic rifles) to register their ownership with the state, it met all objectives. 15% compliance; compliance in New York with a similar rule capped at 5 percent.
This does not bode well for proposals to track gun sales, restrict magazine capacity or ban “assault weapons”. People who would be affected by such laws overwhelmingly oppose them, and they have repeatedly shown a willingness to defy the rules they don’t like. In addition, disagreement over restrictive gun laws appears to be widening.
“Although Democratic opinion has changed little since 2017, GOP support for a ban on assault-type weapons has declined dramatically from 54% in 2017 and 50% in 2019 to 37% today,” Pew Research Noted in April of this year. Likewise, Republican support for a federal gun sales database is 13 percentage points lower than it was in 2017. There have been more modest changes from Republicans in favor of a ban on large-capacity ammunition stores and background checks for private sales and gun shows. “
Gallup finds a similar hardening of attitudes, with the gap between Republicans and Democrats on gun policy widening from an average of 22 points to 47 points, mainly due to the GOP’s growing opposition to gun control measures .
The associations supporting the gun control proposals almost certainly spell the end of their prospects. The United States is a politically polarized country, in which relations between factions are defined by animosity. About 55% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats say the other party is “not just worse for politics, they’re downright bad,” said Nathan Kalmoe, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. reported in 2019 relations between major political factions. It is unreasonable to expect that anybody respect the restrictions which they deeply oppose and which they associate with their enemies.
In a further reality check for proponents of restrictions, the growth in gun ownership among Democrats and some of their mainstream constituents amid loss of confidence in government to keep the peace and treat people with respect makes it more likely that support for stricter gun laws will decline in their ranks that the Republicans will change their attitude.
A majority of Americans may currently be in favor of more restrictive gun laws, but that majority appears likely to decline in the years to come, making policy changes less likely over the years. This is also good, since passing such laws would leave the powers that be seem wholly ineffective as those who would actually be affected by them have demonstrated their reluctance to submit to such policies.