Public agrees: Next step is gun control

By Celinda Lake and Joshua Ulibarri
December 15, 2012

Quite frankly, thoughts and prayers can only go so far. They have limited ability to protect our families.  The time has come for our elected leaders – including President Barack Obama – to stand up and fight for our families and children, and their safety.

Obama’s comments Friday after the shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 little children were killed along with six adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School, were personal and touching. Yet the president’s only allusion to something like gun control were his words about taking “meaningful action.”

But the American people support stronger gun safety measures more than he believes or cares to say. Polls now demonstrate this to be true.

When our children are being shot at and killed in their schools, or movie theaters, we have to take meaningful action.  These tragedies  are too frequent, and are, as the president said, heartbreaking.

We need to talk about gun laws.  We need an open and honest debate about the tragedies happening in our communities, one after another. There are common-sense laws that can help prevent these tragedies, and Americans support them.

The “Fix Gun Checks Act,” if passed, would make it tougher for the mentally ill to legally buy guns by strengthening background checks so people like James Holmes (the Aurora shooter) can’t acquire guns.  Ninety percent of Americans want to fix gaps in government databases that allow the mentally ill or drug users from buying guns. Even gun owners support the laws.

Eighty-two  percent of gun owners (National Rifle Association and non-NRA members) believe that a criminal background check should be required for anyone purchasing a gun, according to data released by  Republican pollster Frank Luntz  for Mayors Against Illegal Guns earlier this year, 76 percent of gun owners support prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns, 80 percent support mandatory gun safety training for anyone applying for a concealed permit, and 78 percent of gun owners believe that concealed permits should only be granted to applicants who have not committed violent misdemeanors.

The NRA, which fights against all this, is out of touch — even with its own membership. Its power to dictate this debate has to be challenged.

The data on assault weapons is just as telling.  The man identified Friday as the gunman, Adam Lanza was armed with semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle and the killers in Aurora and Portland both used an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle.   Sixty-three percent of Americans said they favor a nationwide ban on assault weapons, according to a 2011 CBS/New York Times poll, and 63 percent favored banning high-capacity magazines that hold many rounds of ammunition.

We found, in a 2011 survey we conducted for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, that 57 percent of Americans support a law that would limit the size of ammunition clips so that the gun could not fire more than 10 bullets without having to be reloaded. Only a third, or 34 percent, of Americans opposed that law.

The Brady Bill, which expired under President George W. Bush, and that Obama said he supported, regulated these kinds of assault weapons (AR-15). Those guns are now unregulated and the result is tragedy after tragedy that won’t end until elected leaders step up.

Support for sounder, safer gun laws is not restricted to blue states or big urban cities.  In a study conducted by Lake Research Partners earlier this year in swing state-senate districts in Virginia, we found that two-thirds of voters (65 percent) in a rural western Virginia  district believe the gun laws should be made stronger — including 52 percent who strongly believe so. Just 24 percent say they should be less restrictive.

Ninety-two percent of voters in a state senate district centered in Roanoke, Virginia, strongly endorsed requiring background checks for people purchasing guns and permits for people who want to carry a concealed loaded weapon.

The NRA and those who oppose gun safety measures should welcome a gun-control debate — especially if they think they have the winning hand.

The consistent lack of leadership on this issue is stunning. But what is most unnerving is that it does not have to be this way – the American people support common sense gun laws.

Others have said, even on Friday, that now is not the time to discuss more gun laws. They said this same thing after Aurora, after Portland, and now after Newtown. They are trying to silence the millions of Americans who want stronger protections from gun violence in their communities.

These silencers, led by the NRA, continue to use the 2011 Gallup poll, which we have already explained is problematic, to shut down the debate about new gun laws that will make us safer. That poll  said that 43 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws, a 6 percentage point drop from 2008.

But as the numbers we have cited here show, this single Gallup question is too shallow to really tell the story of what Americans think about gun safety measures.

Now is the time to have a discussion about gun laws that will make our communities and families safer. The American people are ready.

Obama showed great courage earlier this year when he stood up for the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. His courage and leadership is needed here too.  These tragedies will happen again and again until our leaders stand up and pass meaningful gun-safety laws that the American public supports.

PHOTO (Top): Young children wait outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
PHOTO (INSERT): A Glock 22 pistol is seen laying on a Palmetto M4 assault rifle at the Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo store in Parker, Colorado July 24, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

20 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

No, the public doesn’t agree.

Posted by Rourk77 | Report as abusive

The majority of Americans support the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. This is a fact.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

The public does not agree. The only reason there were so many deaths is because the federal ban on firearms within 100feet of a school does not permit a responsible citizen from carrying a firearm. Otherwise someone would have dropped this Perp in his tracks. The police and your gov’t can’t be everywhere and make you safe. Grow up and start taking responsibility for your own security. This article represents the psychology of the victim.

Posted by bobingforit | Report as abusive

Yes, the public does agree

Posted by jimbojoker | Report as abusive

The Republicans need any and all fringe groups to make up for the fact that they represent a small percentage of the electorate.
Their greatest fear is that people will figure them out.

Posted by skyraider | Report as abusive

Which public is this that you speak of? The 26% as usual? Stop using tragedy to push your BS agendas.

Posted by Inferno2ss | Report as abusive

Almost every Swiss man has an assault rifle and its ammunition, at home, as part of his obligation to do military service. Yet killings using these rifles are extremely rare. Why?

Posted by smirkingman | Report as abusive

The two writers of this “opinion piece” (you noted, I didn’t call it news, nor refer to the authors as journalists), have managed to present about as much political drivel and spin as I’ve ever seen, in one single story. The vast majority of the article is composed of opinion, half truths, and highly targeted, and vague opinion “polls”. PULEEZE, can we get some real journalism here?

Posted by JamVee | Report as abusive

A species that eats its young or fails to protect them becomes extinct. Think about it.

Posted by cetj98168 | Report as abusive

@saildog07. You are clearly remarkably ignorant of what the US is, what we face as a people and what “inalienable rights” means.

Posted by bobingforit | Report as abusive

I think we should ban meth and heroin, that would keep it off the streets and, keep people from doing it.

Posted by chevy65TURBO | Report as abusive

The Colordao theater killer chose the only movie theater within 20 miles that had a ban on concealed weapons. You want the only people in the world to have guns to be governments and criminals? a naive concept.
This guy was insane – lets address the problems with mental illness and get some security at schools for God’s sake.
For the first time in my life, I am thinking about buying a gun.

Posted by alli2cu | Report as abusive

The only places where these mass shootings have happened are where guns are not allowed. (Schools, churches, government buildings) These people maybe mentally ill but they still know enough to do this in places where someone can’t shoot back at them. Anyplace that does not allow legal gun owners to carry a firearm should be required to have an armed guard 24/7. Even then the armed guard won’t be in the right place at the right time. I would feel much safer sending my kids to the school in Texas with the Guardian program where some of the teachers are licensed to carry firearms. Outlaw firearms and only criminals will have them.

This is not what the public wants. This is what the liberals want for the public.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

I believe in gun control. I control mine very well. How about controlling the pez dispensing of mind altering, psychosis enducing drugs you’re giving people. Even dispensing these harmful drugs to young adults!
In the Supreme Court case, Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005), the court ruled that our local police are not responsible for protecting us. SOOOOOO, who IS responsible for protecting us? We are responsible. That’s why I responsibly conceal carry. I protect my wife and 2 small children. When more responsible people carry, violent crime goes down. The FBI crime statistics don’t lie. Why do the left and gun grabbing crowd ignore this fact? Liberalism is a mental disorder.

Posted by MarkSC | Report as abusive

Lets look one poll that this particular article is using for it’s numbers.
The group who conducted this poll is the same as wrote this article

The poll used 2 Senate Districts in the State of VA. District 21 and District 38.
with the total numbers of respondents being 305 voters in District 21 and 302 voters in district 38.

That’s a fairly small sample size considering Roanoke VA (part of district 21) has a population of 92,376 (2010 numbers) but polls being what they are they can’t call every registered voter.
So they are making a statement for the entire state of Virginia with a population of 8 million give or take from the words of 607 people. Now not all of the 8 million are old enough to vote or even care enough to vote. But the statement that such a small group of people are the norm for a much larger population is suspicious.

Lets now look at the generator of the poll and the authors of this piece. Lake Research here is a snippet from their web site.
“We’re a woman-owned business with a commitment to diversity. We have a strong client screen built upon our core values, working only for pro-choice candidates, clients with whom our labor friends can work, and good corporate citizens. Check our competitors’ client lists – you’ll find many cannot say the same.”
Nothing unusual there, next check their “outstanding clients” I did not check all of them but the ones I did check are Democrats with a history of voting for more firearms laws or outright bans.

So going down to the list of causes that they have worked for I see several that catch my eye, The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, MoveOn.org, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. So I think it is safe to say that this is a group that is defiantly not non-bias. Nothing wrong with that, but I would not trust this group to give me honest results any more than I would a Republican think tank on gay marriage.

So as to the title of this opinion piece states “Public agrees” there is not enough data in their source material to even make that assumption let alone any reason to believe that the authors are trying to give anything but their own viewpoints legitimacy.

Posted by Darkwingltd | Report as abusive

Funny…I don’t recall being asked for my opinion on the subject of further gun control. I do not agree to new gun control legislation for the record. Also for the record, get rid of the gun free acts that guarantees killers unarmed resistance at schools, libraries, churches, malls, etc…

Posted by JSonline | Report as abusive

This is how I feel about it. I put this sign up in my yard:
My front yard sign

Posted by michael44a | Report as abusive

I think the founding fathers would have had a different opinion if they realized that modern “constitutionalists” were defending the right of 14 year old drug dealers to carry semiautomatic weapons or mentally deranged people to spray bullets into elementary school classrooms. The one part that is frequently lacking in these types of discussions is any realistic alternate solution or approach for stemming the regular occurrence of these types of events. Arming guards at the entrances to all schools? Really? Is that really the statement of our times? Ok, so we are the most heavily armed society in the world and we kill more fellow Americans every year than the combined total of the Gulf War, the Twin Towers assault, the Iraq war and the War on Terror in Afghanistan. Every year. Are there any serious suggestions of how to begin to address these murders?

Posted by MBeem | Report as abusive

A gun is an inanimate tool not deviant behavior and crime is deviant behavior not an inanimate tool.

You can’t prevent deviant behavior by regulating tools because tools are incapable of behavior and the number of tools available to the world’s deviants is endless.

Even if you could legislate guns out of existence, deviants could, would and have used other things that gave them a power advantage over their victims—knives, clubs, rocks or even sharp sticks—all of which are very legal and very accessible.

Posted by bryn1030 | Report as abusive

High rates of gun mortality and harm are often cited as a main impetus for gun control policies.Gun fighting is a serious community health and financial concern, as for example in the United States analysis of global gun control policies and gun rights rates as these relate to offense rates by Kates and Mauser, One objective of gun control has been so-called junk guns which are usually cheaper and therefore more available to the deprived. https://www.facebook.com/swordsswords

Posted by Warrened | Report as abusive