If there is one fault with the progressive view of politics it is that the people, en masse, rarely concur. And in the US beyond the Beltway, the people are rarely inclined towards even the most optimistic forms of historical determinism… Nicholas Kristoff starts his own (self described) tirade on the subject with some telling stats:
Since 1959, Gallup has asked Americans if they favor banning handguns. When the polling started, 60 percent said yes; the latest poll showed support from a new low of 26 percent.
The latest poll also found that, for the first time, a majority of Americans, 53 percent, opposed a ban on assault rifles.
Indeed, the immediate reaction to the Colorado shooting was a scramble to buy guns. The Denver Post reported a roughly 40 percent jump in background checks to purchase firearms.
In the face of such overwhelming odds (although the most remarkable thing about the US’s high level of gun ownership is the lowish kill rate), Nicholas drops the customary liberal response (which is to control the supply of guns):
N.R.A. members are much more reasonable than their organization. There’s room for progress if politicians will show leadership. Hello, President Obama?
A recent survey found that more than 70 percent of N.R.A. members approve of criminal background checks for would-be gun owners. That suggests broad backing for one of the most crucial steps: a universal background check for all gun buyers, even when buying from private citizens. I’d also like to see us adopt Canada’s requirement that gun buyers have the support of two people vouching for them.
Other obvious steps include restricting high capacity magazines and limiting gun purchases to one a month. Making serial numbers more difficult to erase would help. And bravo to California for trying to require that new handguns imprint a microstamp on each bullet so that it can be traced back to the gun that fired it.
The bottom line is that to promote public health and safety, we regulate everything from theater fire exits to toy guns (that’s why they have orange tips). And if we impose rules on toy guns to make them safer, shouldn’t we do the same with real ones?
It seems a reasonable response, but when you take the dissipation of support amongst a post war generation in the 1950s to now, it looks like yet another indicator that the US has changed profoundly in all of that time…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty
Living History 1968-74
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