Despite a highly-publicized speech and a multi-week media blitz aimed at convincing the American people of the importance and legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s executive maneuvers on gun control, the American people remain unpersuaded. Polls show that Americans are unconvinced about the effectiveness of further gun control measures and are in opposition to Obama’s decision to work outside the traditional political process. An additional poll offers important insight in to one of the reasons the public has repeatedly rejected new federal gun controls.
A poll conducted by Investor’s Business Daily on January 4-7 asked if stricter gun control would “hinder self-defense, protecting family” or “reduce crime/keep guns out of criminals’ hands?” Only 42 percent of those surveyed responded that stricter controls would stop criminals from acquiring guns. Moreover, the poll found that more members of the public believe an increase in gun ownership would lead to an increase in safety rather than an increase in crime. The poll also found that the vast majority of Americans agree that the Second Amendment “will always be a relevant and necessary safeguard against tyranny,” including 52 percent of Democrats.
Similarly, a Rasmussen poll conducted January 6-7 revealed that Americans question the efficacy of Obama’s executive actions, but it also showed the public is skeptical of the legitimacy of Obama’s decision to act unilaterally. Survey takers were asked, “Will the president’s new executive order further extending federal government oversight of gun sales reduce the number of mass shootings in America?” A mere 21 percent believed that measure would be effective, while 59 percent answered that it would not. Further, indicating that at least half of Americans didn’t sleep through grade school civics, when asked, “When it comes to gun control, should President Obama take action alone if Congress does not approve the initiatives he has proposed or should the government do only what the president and Congress agree on?” a majority of 58 percent answered that the president must work with Congress.
Part of the reason the Americans lack an appetite for gun control is revealed in another Rasmussen poll conducted January 10-11. The survey asked, “Do you trust the government to fairly enforce gun control laws?” A staggering 59 percent of those polled do not trust the government to enforce gun control laws fairly. A mere 28 percent trust the government with this task, while 13 percent were undecided.
These results are in line with broader measures of trust in the federal government. Since the 1970s, Gallup has routinely conducted a poll asking “how much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington when it comes to handling [domestic problems] – a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?” Under Obama, the federal government has breached Watergate-era lows in trust.
With a severe distrust of the government’s ability to fairly carry out gun control policies, the widely-opposed decision by Obama to go it alone on guns is unlikely to bring about the sort of togetherness across the political spectrum that Obama purports to seek. Those currently running for the Presidency that hope to reverse the climate of distrust with Washington might do well to exhibit trust in the American people to exercise their right to keep and bear arms and their ability to make decisions through their elected representatives.