You probably still remember all the speeches by the Parkland students and others claiming that the march on Washington was “only the beginning” and that gun control was finally going to be a thing. (Well, at least the speeches by the students the media actually chose to highlight, anyway.) And it’s true that national polling showed a surge in support for new gun control laws in the weeks following that horrific attack. But as even the Huffington Post is being forced to admit, that enthusiasm for new gun grabbing laws is following the same pattern it always does and beginning to recede.
The school shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year launched a new generation of gun control activists, inspired walkouts and marches, and sparked the most substantial ― and long-lasting ― shift in public opinion on guns in recent years. The appetite for gun control appears to have tapered off in the following weeks, but some surveys indicate that some changes in public opinion could endure.
In the more than two months since that shooting, HuffPost and YouGov have conducted five surveys tracking Americans’ views on guns. The results show a burst of support for gun reform in the two weeks after the shooting, followed by a gradual reversion to the mean. Once-heightened concerns about gun violence have tapered back to previous levels, as has a desire for stricter gun laws and a belief that gun restrictions can be passed without violating Second Amendment rights.
Not all the numbers have gone back to their pre-Parkland levels, but they’re getting there. That process was already well underway as early as late March. The measurements being looked at break down into two different questions. How many people support new gun legislation and how many believe that it’s actually possible to pass such laws with our current Congress and president. Right after the shooting 50% of the country thought passing such legislation was possible. By March 23rd the number had dropped by six points and it continues to fall.
Similarly, right after the shooting, 51% said Congress wasn’t doing enough about gun violence. In a matter of six weeks, that figure had sunk back into the mid-40s. But that doesn’t mean that all the news is either good or bad. In the wake of a terrible attack, a certain number of people are always going to react in a predictable fashion and consider governmental “solutions” which might have seemed undesirable before. But Americans value their Second Amendment rights and once they see the sorts of legislation that the gun grabbing lobby inevitably cooks up every time they have a chance, enthusiasm for such schemes tends to drop.
There’s still a positive outcome from this debate, however. Americans are, without a doubt, becoming more and more aware of the danger of gun violence. That clearly doesn’t mean that they all want Big Brother to come around and collect all their weapons, but we are increasingly looking for actual solutions to the real problems plaguing us. Getting violent criminals off the streets and taking away their (generally illegally owned) guns is going to do a lot more for us than making it harder for the law abiding to purchase a firearm.
If this translates into increased support for law enforcement and tougher penalties for those who engage in gun violence we might start making some progress in the larger cities where gun violence has been spiking. As for the rest of the country, gun violence has fallen steadily over the past twenty years and it continues to do so today.