So, why aren’t the polling numbers on gun control swaying more members of Congress? Much of the poll numbers don’t capture the nuances of public opinion. For example, there is a significant difference in the level of passion of voters on the two sides of the issue. While members of the National Rifle Association or conservative gun owners hone in on this issue, gun-control proponents may not register that sort of excitement.
The level of voter passion may also depend on where the respondents live. In January, there were 44 gun homicides in Chicago. In 2011, there were only 40 gun homicides in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined. The political pressure for members of Congress from those states is much less than it would be for a senator from Illinois. In fact, Sens. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Mark Kirk, a Republican, both from Illinois, are two of the lawmakers who have come out strongly for some of these gun-control laws.
Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, the director of social policy and politics for Third Way, said her group has conducted polling in some of these states where gun violence isn’t a major issue. When they asked if they thought policies would be effective in reducing crime, most respondents said it wouldn’t. When asked if legislation was addressing a problem in their community or somewhere far away, most respondents went with the latter. The support for gun-control policies then is “really high but shallow,” Hatalsky said.