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New Study out on Gun Control Support

There will be much our opponents can latch on to in this study, but the results are interesting, nonetheless. The authors imply cultural inclination, while a factor in whether you support gun control or not, is not as causative as many studies have shown.

Our CAS allowed us to compute a direct measure of the respondent’s attitudes on egalitarian, libertarian and moral traditionalist issues. We then used those indexes to test whether they had any predictive value in informing opinion on gun control. While the egalitarian and libertarian indexes played some role in influencing opinion, our results indicated that demographic factors play as equally important a role. Moreover, when we included policy issues in our analysis, we found that our cultural indexes lost all significance.

The more I read studies like this, the more I think of rational ignorance of voters. Most people don’t know the issues, and don’t think about the issues in any consistent way. I don’t particularly like how they framed the issue here “banning ownership of assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons,” since assault weapon is a fictional category, made up by our opponents to confuse the public. Better to say ban semi-automatic weapons. I would also be interesting to see how it would poll if you used self-loading weapons, instead of throwing the word automatic in there. There was a tendency in this study to let one issue ride on another. So we speak of background checks and registration, allowing registration to ride on the back of background checks, or perhaps the other way around.

Americans are most united in their support for registration requirements/background checks, with 93% of respondents in our survey supporting such restrictions. Though there is more dissention, a majority of Americans also favor restrictions on assault/semi-automatic weapons and bans on carrying guns in public places. Sixty-three percent of respondents in our survey supported bans on assault/semi-automatic weapons and 57% favored bans on concealed weapons. Our survey revealed the most opposition to handgun bans, with only 22% of respondents in our survey favoring such bans. These opinions, of course, should be seen in the context by which respondents in our survey viewed the Second Amendment. The results indicated that 74% viewed the Second Amendment as intending to protect the right of an individual to own a gun, with only 26% viewing the Amendment as protecting the right of citizens to form a militia.

This is consistent with other polling I’ve seen on the issue. It has to drive our opponents nuts they can’t get traction on these specific issues, but the problem is the cultural identification part, I’d be willing to wager. When you get to specific policies, no one wants to come off as extreme, but none of those people saying they want to ban assault weapons, or want universal background checks, are motivated to turn it into a political movement. I’d be willing to bet in the gun owner demographic, it might even be possible to get some of the folks that support bans out to vote against a candidate who’s bad on the Second Amendment.

Here’s an interesting experiment. Take the same people, and have one surveyor tell them they represent a gun owners rights group, and another that they represent a gun violence prevention group. I’ll be given the same set of people you get wildly fluctuating numbers. I find these kinds of social studies interesting, but I don’t lend much credence to them. People are irrational beings, and tend toward ignorance when you start speaking on political topics. As much as people might say they vote based on issues, most do not. It is an emotional decision making process for most.

5 Responses to “New Study out on Gun Control Support”

  1. kenno271 says:

    If this is a legitimate poll–which it may not be–then this is very bad news. 57% support ban on concealed carry? That’s not in line with other polls I’ve seen. Then again, approximately half of the population is on welfare, so I’m not that surprised.

    Gun owners aren’t so much the new n*****s as we are the new Jews waiting to get sent to the gas chambers.

  2. Andy B. says:

    What any given percentage of the population or voters think about an issue is often of not much consequence, unless it is a hot button issue that will be at the top of their minds and identified with candidates when they go to the polls.

    The good new is that gun laws are only a hot button issue for us. Hardly anyone has ever been elected for demanding more gun control.

    I can illustrate my first point with an example: About 20 years ago I was involved in promoting Initiative and Referendum in Pennsylvania, where we don’t have it. (I’ve since rethought that, so let’s not debate the issue.) At that time the LOWEST level of support for I&R in PA was about 85 percent in Penn State polls, for any demographic, with some demographics going as high as 96 percent supporting it.

    And yet we got no traction at all in the legislature. Eventually an honest legislator told us, “What you are promoting is a “process” issue. No one ever won or lost an election over a process issue. People love the idea, but they are going to throw no one out of office for not promoting it. And if you can’t use it to throw a few of us out of office, you don’t have an issue.”

    Twenty years later, nothing of note has changed with I&R in PA, despite what 85 – 96 percent of the population thinks about it.

    I don’t have a link at hand at the moment, but there is an analysis floating around out there that argues that only three or four percent of the electorate are really being striven for in most elections. So, having three or four very motivated percent of voters in your camp can be far more important and politically powerful than what 95 percent of the population sorta-kinda thinks about an issue.

    That can be good or bad, speaking in broad philosophical terms, but for now it is on our side with the RKBA.

  3. chris says:

    Sorry but the whole thing is based off 3 questions and they are skewed in their possible results.

    Here is the study questions:

    http://sentencing.typepad.com/files/constitutional-attitudes-field-report_client-1.doc

    The relevant stuff is on page 33.

    “Q517. In general do you favor or oppose the following policies concerning gun control:

    Strongly favor Somewhat favor Somewhat oppose Strongly oppose

    Ban ownership of a handgun
    Ban ownership of assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons
    Ban carrying handguns in public places
    Require registration and background checks of persons seeking to purchase guns

    Q518A. Do you personally fear that you will be a victim of a crime involving a gun?

    Yes
    No

    Q519. The exact words of the Second Amendment are as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Do you think these words were intended to give individual Americans the right to keep and bear arms for their own defense or were these words intended to protect the right of citizens to form a militia, and thereby they do not give individual Americans the right to keep and bear arms for their own defense?

    Right of Individual Person to Own a Gun
    Right of Citizens to Form a Militia”

    For example, they take the “ban carrying guns in public places” to mean concealed carry and that is not what the survey asks… Additionally they lump in semi-autos with “assault weapons” whatever those are this week…

  4. Anon R. D. says:

    The failure to break out “shall issue,” permit-based carry w/ background checks (which is what we actually have in the vast majority of American states) from permitless carry is such an obvious oversight that it pretty well invalidates the whole thing.

  5. MaverickNH says:

    I sent the following to the authors and, as of yet, only got a reply from N Persily that he was not an author and his name was added mistakenly…

    *****

    In reading your paper “Profiling and Predicting Opinions on Gun Control: A Comparative Perspective on the Factors Underlying Opinion on Different Gun Control Measures” it is not clear to me how you established your questions and how you interpreted the answers.

    Specifically, we queried respondents on whether they favored or opposed the following types of gun control mechanisms:
    1) banning ownership of a handgun;
    2) banning ownership of assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons;
    3) banning carrying handguns in public places; and
    4) requiring registration and background checks of persons seeking to purchase guns.
    We also asked respondents their opinions on gun rights and the Second Amendment more generally. Specifically, we asked respondents
    1) whether they felt citizens should have a right to have a registered handgun at home; and
    2) whether they felt the Second Amendment was intended to either
    a) protect the rights of citizens to form a militia; or to
    b) protect the rights of individuals’ to own a gun.

    In particular:

    2) banning ownership of assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons
    a. semi-automatic weapons is a clearly defined type of firearm, including pistols, rifles and shotguns that fire one bullet per pull of the trigger without manually recocking the firearm
    b. assault weapons are a political and media creation whose definition varies from time-to-time, state-to-state, etc. True military assault weapons are fully-automatic submachine guns, fully- automatic rifles (machine guns) and machine pistols that fire multiple bullets per trigger pull with out recocking the firearm. Such firearms are already very tightly regulated as Class III weapons and cannot be bought without extensive local/state/federal qualification.
    c. Many would interpret a Yes answer as supporting banning of most hunting rifles/shotguns as well as military machine guns. This mixes two broadly different questions

    4) requiring registration and background checks of persons seeking to purchase guns
    a. Again, this question mixes two broadly different questions.
    b. A Yes answer might be made by a person who thinks all persons wanting to purchase guns obtain a license/permit of some sort, issued by some government authority, AND that all purchases be subject to a background check at time of purchase (explicitly acknowledging the private face-to-face exception)
    c. A No answer might be an individual who might agree that a permit/license be required for concealed carry but not for purchase

    1) whether they felt citizens should have a right to have a registered handgun at home
    a. Mixing questions yet again, and confusing them as well
    b. A Yes answer might suggest that all handguns owned by all persons be universally registered by a government authority
    c. A No answer might suggest that one has the right to have a handgun at home WITHOUT registration

    a) protect the rights of citizens to form a militia
    – But not be armed unless provided guns by the government? Some propose that the2ndA means citizens may form militias but that the government can issue firearms at its discretion, storing them in government armories when not in use for drill/practice.

    b) protect the rights of individuals’ to own a gun.
    – Would Yes mean you could keep but not bear arms? That is, to own a gun but not carry it concealed or otherwise. One could read this question as definition by exclusion. Not unrealistic given the arguments presented in Heller, McDonald, etc.

    Altogether, anyone educated, or uneducated, on the issues has to make multiple interpretations to answer over half of the questions posed.

    How did you chose to interpret the answers?

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