October 5, 2015
Mother Jones is no friend of the right to keep and bear arms. This is exemplified by their willingness to embrace studies that twist data to endorse a favored political solution, and their investigative series on lead and crime which always seemed to veer a bit too close to confirmation bias, since it flattered the writers’ preconceived notions in favor of environmentalism and against guns. That’s why I was surprised when veteran MoJo writer Kevin Drum flatly admitted something that we’ve been aware of for years: there just isn’t a lot of support for the gun control side in the United States . . .
Drum’s piece is in response to an article by David Atkins at Slate, in which Atkins issues the de rigeur bleats about the political power of the NRA that has become part of the catechism of the left on issues related to firearms. In his piece, Atkins argues that “[t]he vast majority of Americans support commonsense [sic] gun laws.”
But Drum called out Atkins:
I’m not sure Atkins has this right. The problem is in the second bolded sentence: “The vast majority of Americans support commonsense gun laws.” There’s some truth to this, but there’s also a big pitfall here, and it’s one that liberals are especially vulnerable to. I routinely read lefties who quote polls to show that the country agrees with us on pretty much everything…. But this is a bad misreading of what polls can tell us. There are (at least) two related problems here:
Most polls don’t tell us how deeply people feel. Sure, lots of American think that universal background checks are a good idea, but they don’t really care that much. In a recent Gallup poll of most important problems, gun control ranked 22nd, with only 2 percent rating it their most important issue. Needless to say, though, gun owners are opposed to background checks, and they care a lot.
Most polls don’t tell us about the tradeoffs people are willing to make. In the abstract, sure, maybe a majority of Americans think we should make it harder to buy guns. But if there’s a real-world price to pay how willing are they to pay it? A few months ago, a Pew poll that pitted gun control against gun rights found that gun rights won by 52-46 percent.
There are lots of polls, and some of them probably show a greater intensity among those who support gun control. A lot depends on question wording. But that’s sort of my point: If you get substantially different responses because of small changes in question wording or depending on which precise issues you ask about (background checks vs. assault weapons, gun locks vs. large-capacity magazines) that’s a sign of low intensity….
Until voters who favor gun control feel as strongly as those who oppose it, all the field work in the world won’t do any good.
The truth that the left doesn’t want to admit to itself is that the reason that gun rights has been a winner for so long on the state and national level is manifestly because people support it. A large (and growing) chunk of the population want to have guns, and most of the those who don’t have simply taken a ‘live and let live’ attitude toward the ones who do.