As Democrats ramp up gun control, a supermajority in U.S. think gun ownership good for society
Popularity of guns in U.S. presents stumbling block to major Democratic policies.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Democrats with ambitions of broad gun control in the United States face a major stumbling block in their efforts to enact those policies: American voters themselves.
Gun rights remain broadly popular in the United States, even after years of Democratic efforts to turn high-profile mass shootings into major gun control initiatives.
A long history of gun ownership, coupled with robust constitutional protections for firearm ownership here, have led to one of the largest private gun stocks in the world.
The enduring popularity of guns in the U.S. was underscored by a recent RMG Research poll conducted by Scott Rasmussen, one that earlier this month found some support for new gun laws among voters but far more overwhelming favorability toward gun rights.
More than six out of every 10 voters "would prefer to live in a community where people are allowed to own guns," the polling found, while more than 70% said "there are positive benefits to allowing private gun ownership."
Demographic breakdowns show the vast majority of Republicans agreeing with those sentiments, yet even Democrats feel favorable toward gun rights in the responses, with Democratic respondents evenly split on the former question and agreeing with the latter by nearly 60%.
Notably, those numbers are up from an earlier survey conducted in September, which found just under 60% of respondents were comfortable living in a community with private gun ownership.
An ongoing positive view of gun ownership throughout the country hasn't stopped Democratic efforts to enact stricter gun control over the years. For decades federal, state and local efforts have focused on restricting both gun ownership in general and classes of weapons available for gun owners in particular.
In June, President Joe Biden signed into law a landmark gun control bill that instituted more restrictive background check rules as well as incentives for states to institute "red flag" laws that would allow firearms to be seized from people preemptively considered a threat.
Biden at the time admitted that the bill "doesn't do everything I want," and the president has since been vocal about his desire for further gun control, including in September a call to "ban assault weapons in this country."
Democrats have also been aggressive in pushing gun control at the state level, with well-known Democratic strongholds like New Jersey and New York boasting some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
In Washington state this month, Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguso announced upcoming legislative efforts to clamp down on gun rights there, including a permit requirement for gun ownership.
“You need to get a license to drive a car in the state of Washington, you need to get a license to go fishing," Inslee said during a press conference. "It’s time that you get a license to make sure that you have safety training to purchase a gun in the state of Washington."
At times Democratic legislators have faced harsh rebukes for gun control support. In 2013 two Colorado Democratic senators were successfully recalled for their support of a package of gun control laws, including "universal background checks."
It's not just government, meanwhile, that has moved to restrict gun rights. Earlier this year it was revealed that the New York-based Amalgamated Bank was part of the effort to create a new merchant category code for gun stores, ostensibly in order to track illegal gun purchases.
The specter of a specially designated marker for gun purchases could raise considerable opposition in the near future, particularly if the rule is ever used to signal out and track legal gun purchases pursuant to gun control efforts.
The demographic realities of gun ownership, meanwhile, could backfire on the bank itself. Amalgamated Bank is the largest union-owned bank in the United States; the RMG Research poll from September, meanwhile, revealed that more than half of all union members in the country live in a gun-owning house.