Like the long-delayed coming of spring to the Mid-Atlantic, evidence is appearing that Americans are regaining their senses and reverting to an instinctual embrace of freedom after a withering barrage of some the nastiest and most ugly anti-gun campaigning in memory.
There is nothing more predictable than the tendency of gun control advocates to exploit tragedy. Yet the post-Parkland media and activist blitz still managed to dubiously distinguish itself for its intensity, its hyperbole, its vitriol, its shrillness, and perhaps for its overreach.
America’s former gun-grabber in chief, Barack Obama, even weighed in from retirement on what he characterized as “our children … calling us to account.” Anti-gunners tried to project an air of inevitability and of sea change. As Mr. Obama put it, “This time, something different is happening.”
The real “difference,” however, may well have been the ability of social media and 24/7 “news” broadcasts to pervasively promote and amplify a narrative so insistently that it seemed futile – if not dangerous – to offer any counterpoint.
Antigun student activists who emerged from Parkland characterized anyone who opposed or refused their demands in the most condemning of terms.
Speaking of politicians who “take money from the NRA,” one told an interviewer on CNN:
If they accept this blood money, they are against the children. They are against the people who are dying. And that is -- that's -- there's no other way to put it at this point. You're either funding the killers or you are standing with the children.
Another immediately chimed in after that comment, characterizing the NRA as “child murderers.”
Americans, generous and compassionate as they are, let the rage play on for some time.
But now signs are increasingly pointing toward the conclusion that America remains a pro-gun nation and that the intensity of the Parkland activism may not be matched by lasting shifts in opinion.
According to polling by Gallup, concern about guns or gun control surged in March, with a record 13% of Americans citing it as the nation’s most important problem (the Parkland murders occurred on Feb. 14, followed by a coordinated school walkout on March 14 and coordinated protest marches on March 24).
On Tuesday, however, Gallup said that percentage had fallen by over half, to 6%. The drop was roughly equal among both Republicans and Democrats. The polling was conducted during April 2-11.
As Gallup noted in its analysis, changes in public opinion on firearms after high profile firearm-related crimes “have tended to be temporary.” And while the analysts were unwilling to rule out the possibility that Parkland could represent a “turning point in the gun debate,” they had words of caution for those who insist it already has been. “[T]he fact that mentions of guns dropped among both Republicans and Democrats, and at nearly equal measures, could pose challenges for the continued viability of this topic as a national issue,” the analysis concluded.
In a national poll conducted by Quinnipiac University during Feb. 16-19, 66% of respondents supported stricter gun laws in the U.S., a record high for the Quinnipiac poll, with 31% in opposition to stricter laws.
Less than a month later, during Quinnipiac polling conducted during April 6-9, the percentage of overall respondents supporting stricter gun laws had fallen 10 points, to 56%. Opposition to stricter laws had also risen 8 points, to 39%.
Negative views of the NRA also fell 8 points between March 6 and April 11, while positive views increased by a point, according to Quinnipiac polling.
A major theme of the post-Parkland activism has been that the youth vote will finally sway national politics in favor of gun control. But that narrative also took a hit with Tampa Bay Times report on Wednesday, which indicated that all the drama is not translating into increased voter registration among teenagers and young adults.
“Across six of the seven largest counties,” the article stated, “there were 4,500 fewer registrations among 16- to 25-year-olds compared to the same point in 2014. The largest county, Miami-Dade, could not provide historical data for registrations.” This trend held, according to the article, even in Broward County, where Parkland is located, with 2,700 fewer registrations in that age bracket.
Of course, this is not to say that America’s gun owners can now rest assured that their rights are secure. Several states buckled to the demands of gun control advocates in the immediate wake of the Parkland tragedy, including the traditionally Second Amendment-friendly jurisdictions of Florida and Vermont.
And as we reported last week, certain banks and other private businesses – some with ties to well-known gun control advocates – are attempting to marginalize and manipulate customers in the firearms industry and create a culture of condemnation around Second Amendment supporters.
The lesson, as always, is that the fight will continue. But gun owners can take heart that Americans have a way of reverting to respect for their time-honored liberties as emotions cool and reason regains a foothold in the public conversation.