If Democrats take control of Congress after November, one thing you can guarantee will be coming down the pipe will be a new attempt at an assault weapon ban, if not a ban on all semi-automatic rifles. It’s unlikely it would ever be passed, even by a Democrat-controlled Congress, at least in part because President Trump would veto it.
But we know they’ll try it and, if they get the blue wave they claim they’ll get, they might think they can override the veto.
The problem for them? It seems the American people aren’t exactly crazy about the idea.
Americans’ support for a ban on semi-automatic guns in the U.S. has dropped eight percentage points from a year ago, when opinions were more evenly divided after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Last year’s measure was unusually high for the trend over the past several years; the current 40% is back to within a few points of where it was between 2011 and 2016.
The latest findings, from an Oct. 1-10 survey, mark the eighth time since 1996 that Gallup has gauged public opinion on banning “semi-automatic guns, known as assault rifles.” These types of guns, which reload automatically but fire only once per trigger pull, have been used in a number of mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years.
Views of an assault weapons ban are sharply polarized politically. Since 1996, Democrats have been more supportive than Republicans of a ban on semi-automatic guns. Currently, they are more than twice as likely as Republicans to favor such a ban (56% vs. 25%). Republicans’ current reading ties with 2016 as their lowest. Thirty-eight percent of independents support a ban, continuing the recent trend in which they are more closely aligned with Republicans than with Democrats.
The highest support for a ban among each party was 50% of Republicans in 1996, 63% of Democrats in 1996, 2000 and 2017, and 63% of independents in 2000.
Now, to be fair, Gallup completely screwed the pooch in their use of terminology. I mean, major screw-ups.
However, Gallup’s decision to use the terms “semi-automatic gun,” “assault rifle,” and “assault weapon” interchangeably in their question and write up of the poll make the results of the polling less clear as those terms have markedly different meanings. Semiautomatic guns require the trigger to be depressed for each round fired. While statutes on what qualifies as an “assault weapon” varies in the handful of states that regulate them, they all pertain to semiautomatic-only guns but make up only a subset of all semiautomatic guns. “Assault rifles,” on the other hand, are defined by the Defense Intelligence Agency as being capable of switching between semiautomatic fire and some form of fully automatic fire (otherwise known as selective-fire).
The specific question Gallup asked respondents includes a direct contradiction because it asked people if they would support a ban on “semi-automatic guns, known as assault rifles.” Since “assault rifles” are not semiautomatic guns, the question is incoherent. The company’s write up of the results further confuses the issue by declaring the results show “57% oppose banning semi-automatic guns; 40% favor a ban” and later describes the results as pertaining to “assault weapons.”
So the question then becomes, do Americans actually support a ban on tactical-style rifles many refer to as “modern sporting rifles” but not on semi-automatic weapons in general? Or, do they oppose all bans on rifles?
That’s difficult to know for certain.
However, one thing we can be sure of is that while anti-gun zealots are currently beating the drums calling for a ban on semi-automatic rifles, they’re not getting the support from the public they’re expecting. Despite the anti-gun media blitz since Parkland, a minority of people are supporting a move like this.
It doesn’t mean Democrats won’t try it if given the opportunity. After all, some anti-gun congress-critters are in such rabidly anti-gun districts that there’s virtually no threat to them from our side. They can push for gun control with impunity.
But it does mean that those in the halls of Congress who like to check which way the wind is blowing would do well to note that the public doesn’t have their back on this issue.