The latest results of Gallup’s long-running gun issue polling are sure to upset gun control advocates. After a year of COVID uncertainty, civil unrest, and record gun sales, support for further firearms restrictions has reached its lowest point since 2016. Moreover, the data shows that exceedingly few Americans consider additional gun controls the most pressing issue facing the country. As Gallup was one of the few polling firms that did not disgrace itself during the 2020 elections, anti-gun activists should find the results all the more stinging.
Since 1990, Gallup has periodically asked Americans “In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict or kept as they are?” In early October a slim majority of 57 percent answered that gun controls should be “more strict,” down from 67 percent in 2018. Those hoping that gun control laws would be “kept as they are” or are made “less strict” accounted for 34 and 9 percent, respectively.
Gallup’s data makes short work of some of the more ludicrous claims peddled by gun control advocates and opportunistic political grifters. For almost a decade, dishonest gun control supporters have contended that there is near-universal support for the criminalization of private firearm transfers – sometimes referred to as “universal background checks.” Gallup’s results directly controvert these specious claims; as do the results from every time this gun control measure has been placed on the ballot.
While it is unfortunate that a narrow majority of those polled support stricter gun control measures, the results must be placed in context. Through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, the measured support for stricter gun control routinely topped 60 percent and was sometimes measured above 70 percent.
Moreover, support for stricter gun control has dropped across the political spectrum. Gun control is less popular among Republicans, Democrats, and independents than when Gallup measured the issue in 2018 and 2019.
The most notable long-term trend highlighted in Gallup’s findings is the public’s continued rejection of a ban on handguns. Gallup reported, “Americans' support for a ban on the possession of handguns, at 25%, is near the lowest on record in Gallup's 40-year trend.” Longtime gun rights supporters will recall that a ban on the civilian possession of handguns was the organizing mission of gun control groups like Brady (formerly Handgun Control, Inc. and the National Council to Control Handguns), Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (formerly National Coalition to Ban Handguns), and the Violence Policy Center. By every available metric, these groups are much further from their goal than when they started.
In addition to their occasional gun control-specific polling, each month Gallup asks Americans “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?” In October, less than 0.5 percent of respondents cited “Guns/Gun control.” Further, the number of responses for “Guns/Gun control” has been similarly negligible for each month since March.
Beyond polling, the 2020 election season provided hints that gun control was unpopular and that anti-gun politicians knew it.
Rather than level with the American people about their support for radical gun controls, Billionaire Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety sent mailers to swing districts in Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina that challenged candidates' supposed positions on health care and pharmaceuticals. In Texas, Everytown targeted at least one candidate on the topic of public school funding.
In Georgia, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff put out a misleading ad claiming he would “defend our Second Amendment.” The ad was a poor attempt to hide the candidate's anti-gun record, which includes advocating for a ban on commonly-owned Second Amendment-protected semiautomatic firearms like the AR-15.
In Montana, a wealthy Californian and other out-of-state interests bankrolled a fake hunting group called the Montana Hunters & Anglers Leadership Fund in a failed attempt to cover up current governor and U.S. Senate candidate Steve Bullock’s anti-gun record.
Given the current mood of the country and the flood of new gun owners it has helped bring about, anti-gun politicians would do well to extend their avoidance of gun control from election season into their respective legislative sessions.