Study Finds Americans Just Don't Care About Gun Control

AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File

The gun debate will likely rage on for the rest of our lives and then some.

No matter how many Supreme Court rulings we have affirming that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right and that gun bans and even severe restrictions are unconstitutional, some dipstick somewhere will still try to ban or severely restrict our right to keep and bear arms.

It's pathetic, but it is what it is.

Yet anti-gunners often lament the lack of gun control and claim that Americans actually want restrictions. They cite polls--sometimes years old by the point they're cited--showing this supposed support.

The problem for them is that this so-called support doesn't show up at the ballot box. Why is that?

Well, a study may have the answer. Americans care for about gun control for about five minutes.

Whether you consider the Second Amendment a dangerous relic or inspiration for a tattoo, the U.S. public as a whole doesn't consider guns an important issue, except in the immediate wake of a mass shooting.

"It's a little depressing that only 8% of America thinks guns are an important issue," said Chris Vargo, an associate professor of advertising and information analytics at the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication and Information. "It makes it obvious to me that, with this much disinterest, isn't going to happen at the national level."

Vargo's research, which was published in Mass Communication and Society in April, looked at agenda setting and gun control to better understand whether around guns is strong enough to pressure legislators into taking action.

He studied the impacts of traditional and partisan media coverage, posts on Twitter (now X), gun-related events, and Google search behavior to understand how important Americans consider guns against the broader tapestry of challenges facing the nation.

Long story short, they don't. Vargo's dataset goes back to 2015, and you can easily point out where devastating mass shootings like Parkland, Uvalde and even Boulder took place—there are spikes in Google searches for terms like "second amendment rights," "concealed carry permit" and "Sandy Hook donations."

But a spike is all it is. Particularly among conservatives, interest in guns and gun control quickly heads back to its baseline. And even in the immediate wake of the gruesome Parkland shootings, only about 30% of Americans considered guns an important issue.

And what's not mentioned is how "an important issue" is defined. For example, guns are an important issue for both me and Shannon Watts. That doesn't mean we agree on what's important about it. For her, it's the restriction of our rights and for me, it's the restoration of them.

But they're both important issues to each of us.

So I wonder how many of those 30 percent were anti-gun versus pro-gun.

Still, the underlying point of the study is that Americans just don't care all that much about gun control. They're not interested in restricting guns no matter how many opinion polls get published saying otherwise.

Quite the discrepancy, really.

Honestly, it's probably not.

See, what happens with opinion polls is that they ask what people want out of a selection of options. Do you favor gun control, check yes or no, more or less. What they usually don't ask is whether it's a subject that matters all that much to them.

That's where we're getting on this study. It's basically finding that most people just don't give a damn about it. They're not going to vote for gun control candidates based on that issue alone. You're going to have to give them a lot more for them to vote for you as a candidate.

It also means that even if they disagree with your stance on guns, if you give them enough other things to like, they'll still vote for you.

It's why we can see countless polls claiming Republicans favor gun control, yet they never seem to vote for gun control candidates. Most of those self-identified Republicans just don't care enough about the issue for it to guide their votes. In primaries, though, those who do care about it enough tend to be the pro-Second Amendment types and they aren't backing anti-gun Republicans. It's not happening.

The truth of the matter is that, in this case, apathy is our friend. It's why we don't see more getting passed at the state and federal levels. The trick is to change public opinion so that it not just matters, but it matters that candidates on all sides of the aisle support the right to keep and bear arms.