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Politics & Policy

As Usual, an ‘Assault Weapons Ban’ Is DOA

Assault Weapons Ban Return Won't Happen

In today’s Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty reviews some interesting poll numbers:

Let’s start off the week with some surprising poll numbers. For starters, despite a near-unanimous tone of media coverage praising the old Assault Weapons Ban and pointing to it as the solution to mass shootings, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Americans are about evenly split on the idea.

Specifically, the poll finds “50 percent in support and 46 percent opposed, a stark contrast from the 80 percent support for the ban in 1994, the year it was enacted. The current level of support is little different from 51 percent in 2016.”

For those who believe that there’d be widespread rejoicing if the federal government tried to ban the most popular rifle in America, these numbers should serve as a timely dose of cold water. They come, remember, in the immediate aftermath of a terrible attack. In 1994, 80 percent of Americans wanted to ban certain rifles absent any recent abominations. Today, after an unusual number of heinous events, only half do. Given that the right to bear arms is explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, these numbers simply won’t cut it. Consider, by way of comparison, that seven out of ten Americans think abortion should be illegal in the second trimester, and yet it remains legal almost everywhere.

The outlook looks similarly grim for those who think they can just “wait it out” until those recalcitrant older voters die off. Per CNN, poll after poll reveals that younger voters are not in fact more pro-gun control than are older voters:

While any one survey result for a subsample that is as small as those under the age of 35 could be an outlier, the average of nine surveys tells us a lot. In the average survey, 50% of Americans said they were for stricter gun control. The same nine polls found on average that 49% of Americans under the age of 35 were for stricter gun control. In other words, the difference was statistically insignificant.

I also checked to see if more recent surveys during this five-year period suggested any sort of uptick in support for stricter gun control among younger adults. There wasn’t. The last four surveys conducted by CNN discovered that 50% of those under 35 were for stricter gun control. That’s identical to the 50% of all Americans who said they were for gun control in the same surveys.

Over the last few decades, Americans have become far less interested in gun control. That, not “the NRA,” is why we don’t see the change that advocates covet.

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