is gun control really controversial?

Recently the discussion on gun rights versus gun control has taken a different turn with a new incoming administration looking to protect the rights of Americans to bear arms. As of August of last year, a survey by Pew Research Center asked 2,010 adults whether it is more important to protect the gun rights of Americans or to control gun ownership. 52% believed protecting gun rights, up from 47% in 2015, edging out a slight majority over the 46% looking for more gun control. Although the debate appears to be pretty even it is also split across party lines with 79% of Democratic supporting and only 9% of Republican supporting voters, feeling it is important to control gun ownership.

With all this in mind, Quoctrung Bui and Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times The Upshot, looked at how the public and experts view gun control regulation, to see which type of policies, regardless of monetary or political hurdles, might make everyone happy. The Upshot asked the Morning Consult, a media and polling company to survey both the leading experts on gun violence and a representative sample of the United States electorate.

What the Upshot was able to create is a graph showing what experts and voters agree upon would help curb gun violence. The experts included social scientists, lawyers, and public health officials and they were asked how effective they thought 29 policies would be at reducing firearm homicides. They then took the 1975 registered voters and asked if they supported or did not support those same 29 policies. The results showed that some of the measures thought by experts to be most effective, such as universal background checks and barring sales to violent criminals, are also some of the most popular among the voters surveyed. Also in general this survey showcases that gun control policies are supported by the majority of voters, with “demonstrating the need for a gun” as the least supported measure, falling below 50% support.

Another portion of the study also looked at how the experts in the field who oppose gun control felt about how effective these policies might be. Of the 30 plus experts who were questioned only 5 were opposed to gun control, all of whom rated the policies as less effective than experts supporting gun control. While these five did oppose most bans policies,  expanding mental health treatment did seem to be widely supported by these five experts. The study also asked law enforcement officers to respond on these policies, although the results were not included in the experts responses. Their results showed a tendency toward policies pertaining to harsher penalties for criminals using guns illegally, and allowing individuals to use guns to defend themselves such as honoring out of state permits. Overall the study seems to show that there are policies that all parties seem to agree would curb gun homicides while others are still debated among experts but still supported by the majority of American voters.


Tyler Aman

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