If you wonder why Democrats stopped talking about gun control, well, wonder no longer. Wonder no longer, either, about why Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats never followed up on their talk about re-enacting the so-called “assault rifle” ban. Gallup’s top line result is stunning, but not as much as its demographic breakdown is:
A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years. …
For the first time, Gallup finds greater opposition to than support for a ban on semiautomatic guns or assault rifles, 53% to 43%. In the initial asking of this question in 1996, the numbers were nearly reversed, with 57% for and 42% against an assault rifle ban. Congress passed such a ban in 1994, but the law expired when Congress did not act to renew it in 2004. Around the time the law expired, Americans were about evenly divided in their views.
Here’s the chart from the past 52 years:
If you think that’s dramatic, take a look at what happened to the demographics on this question. Guess which demos saw the biggest drop in support for stricter gun-control laws? If you guessed the Midwest, well, score a point for you; support in the heartland dropped 35 points, from 72% in 1991 to 37%. Midwesterners used to be the second-most supportive of gun control by region but now are the most opposed, even beating the South at 40%. Aaaaaaaand if you guessed Republicans, score another point. Two-thirds of Republicans in 1991 wanted more gun control, but it’s down to 31% today. Independents dropped nearly as much, from 65% to 38%.
In fact, only four demographics show a majority still favoring gun control: women (50%, down 26 points), the East (54%, down 23 points), those with no guns in the household (57%, down 21 points), and … Democrats, down just 10 points to 64%. That may not seem like much, but that’s still slightly lower than Republicans in 1991.
To get a grip on just how dramatic this change has been, recall the 1995 film The American President, with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning, which used this gun-grabbing speech as its show-stopping climax:
I guess that Hollywood didn’t convince anyone that they’re right. And that is progress.