Poll: Majority opposed to national assault weapon ban

Poll: Majority opposed to national assault weapon ban
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

One of the things gun control advocates have been looking for over the years is a return of a national assault weapon ban. They’re desperate to get one again, often arguing it immediately in the aftermath of any high-profile shooting, even before we have any inkling that such a weapon was used.


And, quite often, it turns out that it wasn’t.

Regardless, that’s been the goal for some time, even though the original didn’t seem to accomplish anything.

However, a recent poll suggests that despite two mass shootings in January, support is dropping for a new assault weapon ban.

Despite outrage over a cycle of deadly mass shootings in California and other states, a new poll out Monday has found plummeting support for a national assault weapon ban, reflecting what even backers say may be growing pessimism over whether such a law would reduce violence.

President Joe Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom have called for a ban, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a new ban bill last month, similar to one Congress allowed to expire after 10 years in 2004. California has banned the sale of assault weapons since 1989, but it is under legal challenge.

“While Biden has undertaken a new push to ban assault weapons, public views on the issue are now closely divided,” said Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates, which produced the survey for ABC News. Asked their opinion regarding the proposed legislation, 51% of respondents said they were opposed and 47% were in support.

Langer Research has asked about an assault weapon ban 22 times in 13 years starting in 1995, and noted that in most other polls, majorities have supported such a measure, peaking at 79% in May 1999. Support was at 62% as recently as April 2018 but fell to 56%, with 41% opposed, in September 2019, the last time the firm asked.

Langer said the decline in support since 2019 is broadly based across groups, but that it “would take a study focused in more detail on the issue to assess its reasons.” Monday’s poll covered a variety of topics including the national debt and the popularity of the nation’s elected leaders.

But Langer did say that other polls suggest reasons for flagging support. The Quinnipiac University poll also found 52% of Americans do not worry about being the victim of a mass shooting, while 47% percent do.


And honestly, why should Americans fear being the victim of a mass shooting? Being the victim of any kind of homicide is rare, to say the least, and a mass shooting is even more of a black swan event than a more conventional sort of homicide.

The drop in support for a renewed assault weapon ban is very bad news for gun control advocates, though. They’ve been pushing one since President Joe Biden took office, and while they’ve certainly tried to pass one, the lack of public support suggests that even many Democrats will be unlikely to back any attempt at a new ban.

That’s actually good news for what should be obvious reasons.

Assault weapon bans sure sound good, but what happened last time was that gun manufacturers met the demand with firearms that met the requirements but were functionally no different than banned firearms. That’s what would happen again.

The only way to prevent that would be a semi-auto ban, but that would introduce even more political problems since most handguns sold are semi-automatic, as are a lot of hunting rifles and shotguns, including shotguns intended for shooting clay pidgeons, something most anyone would say was a legitimate sporting use, even if they dislike hunting.

So really, the fact is that an assault weapon ban is a non-starter and it should be. The question then becomes whether the Biden administration will get the memo.


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