Polls that gauge support for “gun control” measures are imperfect, but long-term surveys do offer some useful insight into trends. A new Gallup poll finds that American support for “stricter gun control” has fallen to 52 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2014. For context: After the Parkland school shooting in 2018, support for gun control hit its highest level since 1993 at 67 percent. In 1990, the percentage that supported stricter laws was 78 percent. In 2020, there was seven-point drop and another five-point one this year. And imagine what those polls would look like if more Americans understood that the vast majority of gun owners do go through background checks?
Some of this movement is almost surely attributable to the fact that we’re in the middle of the greatest expansion of gun ownership in American history. In 2020, there were 8.4 million first-time gun buyers. Women accounted for somewhere around 40 percent of those people. Without gun shortages, that numbers would likely have been significantly higher. And the pace hasn’t slowed (with many people using their stimulus checks to stock up on new weapons). There have been other gun-buying surges in American history, in the 1950s for instance, but the new gun owner isn’t buying hunting rifles, but semiauto handguns for personal protection.
Indeed, not an insignificant number of Americans were likely dismayed as officials allowed rioters to take over sections of major cities in the summer of 2020. The defund-the-police movement — which a number of mainstream Democrats, caught up in the moment, flirted with — and rising homicide rates didn’t help, either. And it is always the case that when Democrats win elections — the kind of people who will nominate a notorious anti–Second Amendment activist to head up the ATF — anxiety among gun owners grows.
What should really worry Democrats, however, is that the decrease in the Gallup poll was largely driven by a 15-point drop among independents. There are plenty of states represented by Democrats in Congress — Arizona, West Virginia, Virginia, and Georgia come to mind — that have relatively high levels of gun ownership. The prospects of new restrictive gun laws being passed seems more remote now than it has in decades.