PollingReport.com has found that national attitudes towards guns are returning to normal levels.
There was a flurry of gun control activity following the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting. These calls for stricter gun control regulations are culminating in new legislation at both the state and federal levels. In Connecticut, state legislators recently drafted laws that would ban more than 100 types of guns. Meanwhile, President Obama and Democratic lawmakers have been promoting universal background checks for gun sales.
According to recent polls, these regulations might be a few weeks too late -- Americans are already losing interest in the gun control debate. In January of 2011, CNN/ORC polling found that 71 percent of people agreed that there should be “some restrictions in gun ownership." In March of this year, just two months after the Sandy Hook shooting, that number dropped ever-so-slightly to 70 percent.
Polling from ABC News and the Washington Post found that gun control sentiment spiked after Sandy Hook, but those numbers have since fallen back to their levels in 2011. The Pew Research Center found similar results, with 46 percent of people siding with gun rights advocates. This number is identical both before and after the Newtown shooting.
These statistics prove to be frustrating for people on both sides of the gun control debate. Whenever there’s a mass shooting, gun rights advocates have to endure a wave of criticism and new gun control legislation. For gun control proponents, it’s difficult to muster the long-term national support they need to create meaningful gun control legislation.
This seems to be a continuous cycle in the gun control debate. Mark Memmott of NPR correctly predicted in December, "If recent experience [about gun control after mass shootings] is a good guide, public opinion may not shift too much." The Pew Research Center similarly argued, “Recent mass shootings have had little impact on the public's attitudes toward gun control. That was the case after the Colorado theater shootings.”
Still, this lukewarm support for gun control does not necessarily mean that gun rights advocates are winning the fight. Gallup found that about 12 percent of Americans favored less strict gun control laws in 1995. This number has changed slightly over the years, but in 2011 it evened out at 11 percent. People who favor stricter gun control have gradually adopted a much more neutral “keep gun control the way it is” stance.
These universal background checks could prove to be a pivotal moment for gun control advocates. If they successfully pass the universal background check law, this could become the new status quo for the growing number of Americans who don't want to change gun control legislation.