Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Has the NRA Won? after Mass Shootings, Support for Gun Rights Goes Up

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Has the NRA Won? after Mass Shootings, Support for Gun Rights Goes Up

Article excerpt

It is now fair to ask whether the National Rifle Association is winning - or has won - this era of the gun debate.

Gun control advocates have tried to use the horror of mass shootings to catalyze the public into pushing for sensible gun restrictions. Yet gun ownership has spiked in the wake of these tragedies.

A striking report released Friday by the Pew Research Center revealed that "for the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52 percent to 46 percent."

One of the reasons cited was an inverse understanding of the reality and perception of crime in this country. As the report spells out, in the 1990s people's perception of the prevalence of crime fell in concert with actual instances of violent crime. But since the turn of the century, "a majority of Americans (63 percent) said in a Gallup survey last year that crime was on the rise, despite crime statistics holding near 20-year lows."

Furthermore, it used to be that the people most worried about crime favored stricter gun control, but "now, they tend to desire keeping the laws as they are or loosening gun control. In short, we are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership - not gun control - makes people safer."

The report goes on to say, "Why public views on crime have grown more dire is unclear, though many blame it on the nature of news coverage, reality TV and political rhetoric. Whatever the cause, this trend is not without consequence. Today, those who say that crime is rising are the most opposed to gun control: Just 45 percent want to see gun laws made more strict, compared with 53 percent of those who see crime rates as unchanged or dropping."

Another cause is likely the intermingling of politics and high- profile crimes. As The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2012: "As sure as summer follows spring, gun sales rise after a mass shooting. It happened after the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. It happened after the Tucson, Ariz. …

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