By Paul Helmke | President, the Brady Campaign
Earlier this week we released the results of a poll on the gun issue, taken by the prominent Penn, Schoen & Berland firm, of 1,083 confirmed Election Day voters.
Before discussing the responses that may come as a surprise to some, I wanted to highlight the analysis of Rob Green, a principal at PSB, who evaluated the new political status of gun violence prevention after this election:
"These findings suggest that sensible gun legislation provides a unique opportunity for the new Administration to build a bridge to moderate voters in both parties. It is no longer plausible for opponents of gun legislation to assert that gun laws will somehow lead to a total gun ban."
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In fact, these results show that voters support a variety of basic safeguards for the public safety when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
This support is strong in every region of the country, among voters who own guns and those who do not, across partisan and ideological lines – and even in the "New Blue" states (states that George W. Bush won 2004 but that voted for Barack Obama in 2008). These "New Blue" states are a cross-section of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
First consider the poll's general findings:
* 76% of all voters "support the passage of laws placing reasonable restrictions on guns"; 78% of "New Blue" state respondents support reasonable gun restrictions; 66% of gun owning voters also agree;
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* 79% of all voters say the views of the NRA were not important to their vote for President; 78% of "New Blue" state respondents agreed; 74% of gun owning voters agreed. Now, compare these results with voter attitudes on a few specific gun control policies:
* 83% of all voters favor criminal background checks for all gun sales; 87% of "New Blue" state respondents favor them; 84% of gun owning voters favor them (virtually identical with voters overall);
* 68% of all voters favor the registration of gun sales and licensing of gun owners; 70% of "New Blue" state respondents favor registration and licensing; even 60% of gun owning voters favor registration and licensing;
* 65% of all voters favor a waiting period of five days for handgun sales; 73% of "New Blue" state respondents favor a waiting period; 64% of gun owning voters favor this waiting period;
* 65% of all voters favor banning military style assault weapons: 68% of "New Blue" state respondents favor banning them; 60% of gun owning voters favor an assault weapons ban.
* 54% of all voters favor limiting the number of guns that can be bought at one time: 57% of "New Blue" state respondents favor such limits; just 42% of gun owning voters favor these limits, however. What explains this strong, across-the-board, support for policies once considered controversial?
Perhaps the Supreme Court decision last June that Americans have an individual right to own a gun for self defense in the home, but that other reasonable restrictions are "presumptively lawful," helped lay the groundwork here. Law-abiding citizens' guns are safe.
This position is consistent with those taken by candidate Barack Obama, as well as the Brady Campaign post-Heller. Because of the Supreme Court decision, the gun violence prevention debate has shifted from the extremes to the middle.
We saw in this election that candidates who favor sensible gun laws won across the country, while those favored by the National Rifle Association lost races at all levels across the country to Brady-endorsed candidates.
These results indicate that we may be experiencing a sea-change in the politics of gun violence prevention. Rather than driving a wedge between voters, common sense gun laws may instead help elected officials find a sensible middle ground that protects American families and communities while gaining the support of most voting groups.
After so many years of division, that would be a welcome change, indeed.
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