Gun control support perpetually squishy

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

In the wake of a mass shooting, I want to focus on the survivors and mourn those lost to such a senseless act of violence. I don’t want to do anything else regarding the shooting than that.

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Unfortunately, I can’t. I know that no matter what happened, the topic of gun control will come roaring back to the forefront of public debate and I need to start getting ready for that.

I’m not wrong, either, because we’ve all seen it. That includes calls for specific regulations before we even know anything. The perpetual calls for assault weapon bans, for example, only for the killer to have used a handgun.

But we also see claims that support for gun control measures remain strong, measures such as universal background checks and red flag laws. These, too, flare up in the wake of mass shootings, often when tensions are high.

And yet, we’ve seen a number of these proposals defeated when the voters got to choose.

Writing over at Newsweek, none other than John Lott and Rep. Thomas Massie have thoughts on that.

It seems Lott’s organization, Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), did a survey of their own. Sure enough, support for universal background checks was high…unless they got into specifics.

First: “These laws are called universal background checks. Let’s say a stalker is threatening a female friend of yours late on a Saturday night. She asks you if she can borrow your handgun until she has a chance to buy one. She is trained and has no criminal record. If you loaned her the gun, this law would make you a felon. Would you support or oppose this law?”

Respondents now opposed these background checks by a 44%-42% margin. While Democrats, liberals, singles, those living in urban areas, and blacks still strongly supported these laws, Republicans, moderates, married people, those living in non-urban areas, and whites opposed them.

Second: “A Boy Scout troop is going for his skeet shooting badges. If you lend the Scout master your shotguns, you would be committing a felony. Would you support or oppose this law?”

Voters now opposed the policy by a 45%-42% margin, with a similar demographic breakdown.

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In other words, people like the broad idea of these requirements, but not when the rubber meets the road.

It’s not just universal background checks where this was found, either.

CRPC also did similarly with red flag laws, and what they found was pretty interesting as well.

The CPRC also undertook a survey last year on “red flag” laws. After respondents were told that there are no court proceedings before an individual’s guns are taken away and that there are no mental health care experts involved in the entire process, support changed to opposition to such laws (29%-47%).

In other words, it seems people believe red flag laws involve actual due process. They don’t. The judge is involved, sure, but this isn’t a court proceeding. This is someone asking for the judge’s signature, much like they would for a warrant.

However, a warrant simply grants the police authority to search. Once the search is completed, that warrant is nothing but protection for the cops, something to prove they followed the correct steps. Your rights remain intact.

But a red flag law involves taking away someone’s right. The individual doesn’t have a chance to defend themselves. The judge never speaks with them. A mental health professional hasn’t necessarily seen them, either.

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All of that makes a lot of people nervous, which is only right.

The truth is that the support for gun control isn’t really support for gun control. It’s support for sound bytes and ideas, but not the nuts and bolts of firearm regulation.

So that support looks strong, but it’s really far more squishy than people think.

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