Public agrees: Next step is gun control
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.