Why More Americans Are Supporting Gun Rights

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

It’s been two years since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one of the most recent events that sent the country into a spiral of discussion concerning gun control. Despite large public outcry after Newtown, gun control laws failed to pass Congress, and now, on the second anniversary of the incident, polls show growing support for gun rights in the United States.

How much has support grown?

According to data from the Pew Research Center, 52% of Americans support gun rights. This data marks the first time in 20 years that more Americans support gun rights than gun control. Only 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership. Following the tragedy in Newtown in December 2012, gun control support was seemingly on the rise with data in January 2013 showing that 51% prioritized gun control over ownership, and only 45% supported gun rights above control.

Similarly, there’s been an increase in the amount of people who think guns do more to protect people than harm people. Following Newtown, 48% said guns do more to protect people and 37% said they placed people at risk. Now, 57% of Americans say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 38% say it does more to endanger personal safety. 

What changed people’s minds?

The frequency of fatal mass shootings has not decreased in the wake of Newtown, so why are people warming right back up to guns? The NRA has had a surprisingly successful campaign. After President Barack Obama came out hard against guns in early 2013, the NRA fired back, with its president Wayne LaPierre releasing a speech blaming the media for creating violence and then demonizing gun owners. The argument evidently worked for many people, and the NRA, with its supporters, was able to stop a federal bill that called for background checks and banned certain types of assault rifles and ammunition.

Gun control groups, on the other hand, have failed to garner that kind of support. Politico notes that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ anti-gun violence super PAC spent $10.6 million during the midterms, but “barely won half of its contests.” Meanwhile, gun rights activist have been able to get more and more relaxed laws for gun owners or purchasers: Missouri lowered the minimum age for openly carrying a weapon to 19 from 21 and relaxed open-carry restrictions; Georgia approved a measure that allows guns inside bars, restaurants, and churches; and a proposed bill in Florida ease firearm restrictions on college campuses.

Another result that may come from increased public support for gun ownership rights is a change in Texas gun laws. The state is one of the few that bans the open carry of handguns. However, that may change in 2015. The state currently allows concealed weapons and could become the largest state to allow open carry. Although most of the country has some form of open carry policy, California, Florida, New York, Illinois, South Carolina, and Texas do not. These are largest states with some of the largest cities in the country, population-wise.

Newtown fallout

Congress has failed to pass any sort of gun control legislation in the two years after the Newtown shooting, and now that Republicans control both the Senate and House and public opinion shows more support for gun ownership, it’s even more unlikely anything to limit gun ownership will happen in the law. In response, the families of the victims of the Newtown shooting are looking for reparations from the gun manufacturer.

“Two years [have] passed and Congress has been complicit in the gun violence in this country by failing to act. And I share the frustration that may in part underlie the reason for this legal redress,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said of the families’ decision to sue, to CBS News.

The suit is filed against Bushmaster, the company that made the AR-15 rifle 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and six adults. “It’s important for my family to honor my sister and not have her name just be the teacher that shielding her kids,” said Jillian Soto, sister of victim Vicki Soto, according to NBC News. “I want people to remember that her family fought in court for her name and to make change happen to hold the gun industry responsible.”

Soto said the motivation of the suit is not money, but rather a call for gun companies to stop giving AR-15s to civilians. “No matter what the outcome is, at least we gave it a shot,” she said. “If we don’t win, we won’t regret what we have done in our sister’s honor.”

According to NBC News, a 2005 federal law shields gun manufacturers from many liability lawsuits, but the families’ lawyers are looking for exceptions. “If you can prove that the manufacturer knew in some way that the gun would end up the hands of a proscribed purchaser, someone who shouldn’t have the gun, you might be able to show liability,” Robert Fellows, a New York attorney, told CBS. “But it is going to be very difficult.”

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