I love these “Republican identity crisis” polls, especially when it’s not clear which wing of the party is suffering an identity crisis. Case in point: That Cato poll from a few days ago about GOPers wanting to strip flag-burners of their citizenship horrified conservatarians like me. But is that because the party’s changing and becoming more reactionary or has it always been that reactionary on balance, more or less, and now has some encouragement from the very top in the reactionary figure of President Donald Trump?
This Morning Consult survey’s another nice example. It’s easy to dismiss the data here showing Republican support for all sorts of gun-control policies, including an assault-weapons ban, as “surprising.” But is it? GOPers routinely back universal background checks in polls to the tune of 80 percent or greater. These new numbers are questionable insofar as they come on the heels of a horrendous mass shooting, which always understandably pushes the public towards greater interest in gun restrictions — temporarily. Even so, it’s worth noting how many different gun control questions MC asked and how uniformly enthusiastic Republican responses were to them. The NRA is a powerful lobby because gun-rights activists believe intensely in their cause and Republicans generally believe in the broad right to own a gun, but on particular gun measures? Nah. There’s plenty of room for negotiation in the minds of most right-wingers.
In the national survey, conducted Oct. 5-9 among 1,996 registered voters, roughly half (49 percent) of Republicans said they support stricter gun control laws — up 5 points from a survey conducted shortly after a shooting attack on Republican members of Congress at baseball practice in Virginia on June 14, and up 12 points from a survey taken after the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016.
While 45 percent of GOP voters said they still oppose more regulation on gun policy, the fervor of that dissent has dropped considerably since June 2016: 27 percent of GOP respondents now say they are strongly opposed to stricter measures, compared with 42 percent who took that stance roughly 14 months ago…
In the national survey, which was conducted online and has a 2-point margin of error, voters showed broad support (79 percent) for banning bump stocks, including 75 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of respondents from gun-owning households.
For the moment, and only for the moment, a plurality of Republicans favor stricter gun control, 49/45. In a few months, as the memory of Vegas recedes, those numbers are apt to shift back to net opposition. But that only tells you that, in the big picture, Republicans dislike the idea of new gun regulations generally. Ask them about specific gun control proposals and, as I say, you’ll be surprised to find how many at least “somewhat support” them. Morning Consult asked no fewer than 18 questions each mentioning a particular regulation — universal background checks, the assault-weapons ban, a national database of gun sales, high-capacity magazines, suppressors, three-day waiting periods, and even a few abstract topics, like whether Americans should have to demonstrate a particular “need” in order to purchase firearm. You can scroll through the results here yourself starting on page 86.
Of the 18 questions asked, the *only* one in which at least a plurality of Republicans *didn’t* support the regulation mentioned was the one about demonstrating a need for a gun before you can buy one. Universal background checks: 87 percent of GOPers at least “somewhat” support the idea. Barring people on the no-fly list, which is based on arbitrary federal determinations, from buying weapons? 83 percent Republican support. Assault-weapon ban? 65 percent. High-capacity magazines? 64 percent. Three-day waiting period? 72 percent. Majorities of Republicans also supporting limiting gun purchases to one per month (59 percent) and limiting the amount of ammo you can buy in a given time period (57 percent). The GOP currently has a bill circulating in the House that would relax regulations on suppressors but that idea is opposed by 60 percent of Republicans. Even the prospect of a national workplace ban on firearms drew more Republicans in favor than against, although not quite a majority (48/45).
Obviously you could tweak the phrasing of some of those questions to produce more Republican opposition. Emphasize that suppressors don’t “silence” guns but are helpful in protecting a shooter’s hearing and support is bound to go up. Specify how cosmetic some of the objectionable features of an “assault weapon” are and support for a ban is destined to drop. Most voters won’t educate themselves to any great degree on these policies, though, which means they’re ripe for persuasion that more regulation is the answer. I doubt Trump will touch the subject since hardcore gun-rights fans would boycott the midterms if he did but there’s ample reason to think doing a “deal” with Chuck and Nancy would be broadly popular. I wouldn’t worry, though: Dummies like Obama lackey Dan Pfeiffer are beating the drum for Australia-style “buyback” confiscation programs, a gross overplaying of Democrats’ hand. So long as lefties insist on an entire loaf they’ll never, ever get, the NRA’s positions are safe.
Update: Speaking of which:
The National Rifle Association (NRA) on Thursday said it opposes legislation in both the House and the Senate that would ban the use of bump stocks, a device that can be used to increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire and was found in the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter.
“The NRA opposes the Feinstein and Curbelo legislation,” Jennifer Baker, the director of public affairs for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, told The Hill, referencing legislation in both chambers.
The NRA’s willing to have the ATF reclassify bump stocks as automatic weapons, effectively banning them, but it doesn’t want a Republican Congress to get comfortable with passing new gun-control regulations. I guess that’s that.