Public Wants Restrictions on Guns: New Polls

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Every year in America, more people die from gunshot injury than have been killed by all terrorist attacks in history.” So says Tom Diaz, a former gun enthusiast and an ex-member of the National Rifle Association whose first book, Making a Killing, is an influential anti-gun book and is now releasing, The Last Gun.

A majority of Americans now agree with Diaz’s view that more restrictions on guns are needed. The public says it  supports some form of gun control following the Connecticut massacre of 27 kindergarten students and teachers and others.

Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist and former George W. Bush speechwriter,  feels this is a time for change.

“When making public policy, we do not design a nation from scratch. There are perhaps 270 million guns in America and more than 11 million people who suffered from severe mental illness in the last year. Yet the violence produced at this intersection is relatively small. The mentally ill account for 3 percent to 5 percent of violent crimes. The toll of mass killings in the United States — those involving four or more victims — averages about 160 a year.

“But it is not only the numbers that matter. One hundred and sixty fatal lightning strikes each year (there is actually an average of 54) would result in a campaign of public service warnings. The same number of deaths produced by the intentional poisoning of baby formula would produce a national panic and manhunt. Mass murders — targeting public places, colleges and now kindergarten classrooms — are closer to the second category. They take a disproportionate share of the innocent and a disproportionate share of our sense of safety.

“As in matters of public health, the goals are risk and harm reduction. This would involve better services for the severely mentally ill, who are now more likely to be found in a prison than a hospital — as well as more stringent requirements on mental-health professionals to report possible threats. It may impose increased security burdens on schools. And, yes, reasonable gun restrictions are needed.”

“Governing often involves the difficult balancing of rights. It is already on a slippery slope — where all responsible governing takes place… These efforts require humility. They offer the hope of marginal gains, not ultimate safety. And there is no adequate political reply to the moral obscenity of burying a child — caused by a mass murderer, by a drunk driver or by gang crossfire. But this does not mean we are helpless when it comes to the safety of children in our charge. The first, necessary response to the unacceptable is not to accept it.”

According to a recent CNN/ORC poll, more and more Americans agree that something needs to be done to curb gun violence. Forty-six percent of people questioned say that that government and society can take action to prevent future gun violence, up 13 percentage points from January 2011, following a shooting incident in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and some, including then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, severely injured. A 53 percent majority still believes that attacks will continue to happen regardless of any action taken, but that's down 13 points from January 2011.

"All of those numbers are much higher than they were in a CNN poll conducted in January, 2011, indicating that the tragedy in Connecticut may be affecting more Americans more intensely than other recent attacks," said a spokesperson for CNN.

CNN says those favoring major restrictions was at under 50 percent. According to the poll 52 percent say they favor major restrictions on guns or making all guns illegal, a five point increase.

Forty-three percent say the elementary school shootings in Connecticut makes them more likely to support gun control laws, a 15 point increase from January 2011 following the Arizona incident that killed six and injured Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

The poll says there remains nearly unanimous support for background checks and more than nine in ten believe that some people, such as convicted felons and people with mental health problems, should be prevented from owning guns. Nearly eight in ten favor gun restrictions laws and 62 percent support a ban on semi-automatic assault guns and also high-capacity ammunition clips. Fifty-two percent oppose a limit on the number of guns an individual can own.

Nearly eight in ten Democrats say they favor major restrictions on owning guns or an outright ban. That number drops to 42 percent among independents and 31 percent among Republicans. There's also a gender gap, with 41 percent of men saying say support major restrictions or an outright ban, with that number jumping to 62 percent among women.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International December 17-18, with 620 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

The killings in Connecticut “triggered a conversation different from other recent U.S. gun t according to a special report by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

“On both blogs and Twitter, the gun policy discussion accounted for almost 30 percent of the social media conversation examined by PEJ, exceeding even prayers and expressions of sympathy in the three days following the December 14 massacre that left 26 dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. And, within that discussion, calls for stricter gun control measures exceeded defenses of current gun laws and policies by more than two to one.”

The heavy emphasis on gun policy-and support for stricter laws and enforcement-also played out in the nation's newspaper opinion pages in the days immediately after the Newtown tragedy. An examination of op-ed columns and editorials in 11 of the nation's newspapers from December 15-18 found that the discussion of gun laws was far more prevalent than other aspects of the tragedy, such as mental health or even sympathy for the victims. And, while just a snapshot of newspaper opinion pieces around the country, the tone was clear: those calling for stricter gun control outnumbered those defending current laws by a margin of more than 6 to 1.

The tragedy was also a top news event on YouTube. The most watched video by far, seen more than seven million times in the five days following that tragedy, was President Obama's initial four-minute statement from the White House which he delivered hours after the news had broken, fighting off tears as he spoke.

Overall, 33 of the 51 op-eds and editorials written about the shooting (65 percent) focused on the gun law element. And the vast majority of them, 25, advocated for stricter gun control or enforcement. Just four of them defended current gun rights while four others discussed the issue in general rather than taking sides.

Visit your local library to obtain these resources:

Encyclopedia of Gun Control & Gun Rights, 2nd ed.
Glenn H. Utter, and Robert J. Spitzer, (2011).
Utter, a professor at Lamar University and author of the first edition (Greenwood, 1999), joins Spitzer, a professor at SUNY at Cortland, to combine their expertise in gun-control issues, updating and expanding this new edition from Grey House. There are more than 300 entries in the book, with 36 new articles, including entries on the Virginia Tech shootings as well as the Tucson shooting involving U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
— Excerpt of review by Steve Stratton first published December 1, 2011 (Booklist).


Gun Control: A Documentary and Reference Guide

Robert J. Spitzer, (2009).
This resource will be very useful for the general public and students. The author, a political science professor who has written extensively on gun control, brings forward the historical and modern aspects of the topic in American history. Although there are other recent reference resources on the subject, this single volume brings together the most pertinent historical and contemporary documents in a very useful, well-organized, and objective manner.
— Excerpt of review by Arthur Meyers first published May 27, 2009 (Booklist Online).

Outgunned: Up against the NRA: The First Complete Insider Account of the Battle Over Gun Control
Peter Harry Brown and Daniel G. Abel, (2003).
It is no secret that gun control has been one of the most controversial political issues in the U.S. for the past several decades. What is less well known, however, is the extent of the dirty dealing that is commonly associated with this hot-button issue. Investigative reporter Brown and attorney Abel have chronicled the battle of the group of attorneys suing the gun industry and the NRA for “knowingly manufacturing and marketing lethal machines to criminals.”  During the course of this investigative account of these legal battles, the authors expose a wealth of information detailing NRA strong-arm tactics and the suppression of damaging information by the ever-secretive gun industry. This chilling account will add fuel to the already hot nationwide debate about guns. — Excerpt of review by Margaret Flanagan first published December 15, 2002 (Booklist).

Politics of Gun Control, 5th edition
Robert J. Spitzer, 2007
Robert J. Spitzer has long been the go-to guy on gun control, and his evenhanded treatment of the issue continues to compel interest and interviews by such luminaries as Terry Gross and Keith Olbermann. Where else will you find an author writing on this subject who is a member of both the NRA and the Brady Center? New to the Fifth Edition: Features a new, in-depth section on the movement to allow gun carrying on college campuses. Covers recent public shootings including that of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. Includes such recent court rulings as D.C. v. Heller, McDonald v. Chicago, and others. Offers new data on gun ownership, gun deaths, school shootings, and public opinion on gun control. Looks at NRA politics in recent elections. Examines ATF role changes in light of increased border patrols and heightened Mexican drug violence. Explores phenomena related to social media including gun meet-ups.

 

Video

FRONTLINE: The Wounded Platoon DVD, (2010).

Changing the Conversation DVD
Janet Fitch, (2010).

National Geographic: Guns in America DVD
(2008).

Also of interest:

Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy
Joan Burbick, (2006).

Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control
Kristin Goss, (2006).

A Good Fight
Sarah Brady, (2002).

Lethal Logic
Dennis Henigan, (2009).

While We Were Sleeping
David Hemenway, (2009).

Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea
Josh Horwitz and Casey Anderson, (2009).
And when gun enthusiasts talk about Constitutional liberties guaranteed by the Second Amendment, they are referring to freedom in a general sense, but they also have something more specific in mind---freedom from government oppression. Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea reveals that the proponents of this view base their argument on a deliberate misreading of history.  The book discusses issues regarding the NRA, D.C. v. Heller, German gun laws for Nazis during the Holocaust, property rights, and "shoot first" laws. Challenging the proposition that more guns equal more freedom, they expose Insurrectionism---not government oppression---as the true threat to freedom in the U.S. today. Joshua Horwitz is Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

Beyond the Bullet: Personal Stories of Gun Violence Aftermath
Heidi Yewman, (2009).

Enter the Babylon System: Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent
Rodrigo Bascunan and Christian Pearce, (2007).

Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist
Richard Feldman, (2007).

America’s Great Gun Game: Gun Ownership vs. Americans Safety
Earl McDowell, (2007).

 

 

Image:

Pyre of smuggled weapons in Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi, Kenya. Original caption states, "A cache of more than 5,000 smuggled guns ready to be set ablaze at Uhuru gardens (peace grounds) during the peace support effort between the warring countries surrunding kenya and the communities leaving on the porous boarders of Kenya. This was in an effort to bring peace and end killings in the Northern part of Kenya."
Date: 15 March 2007, 09:47
Author: Fredrick Onyango from Nairobi, Kenya

 

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