The challenge in bringing change is that the debate over gun rights isn’t really about guns at all. It’s about what they represent: cherished freedoms, a reverence for independence. The guns are a rejection of political correctness that creeps into everything. Even the most incremental move to constrain deadly weaponry seems to many Americans to cut against their rights. In the blood-soaked scene on the Vegas Strip, those deeply held beliefs collide with our collective horror. The question now, as the victims try to make sense of slaughter on a military scale, is where do we draw the line?
If that is a political question, it is has proven a confounding one. There are an estimated 265 million guns in the U.S., according to one study from Harvard and Northeastern universities–greater than the total number of votes cast in last year’s presidential election. They are owned by 30% of the adult population. That’s not a constituency to be dismissed. But not all gun owners are against all forms of gun control. A Quinnipiac University poll in June 2017 showed 94% of voters support background checks for all gun buyers–including 93% of Republicans. The same poll found that a majority, 57%, believed guns are too easy to buy, and only 35% thought more people carrying guns would make Americans safer. A Pew survey of gun owners found that almost 30% of them support stricter gun laws. “There’s a complete disconnect,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat.