The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reports that for the first time in more than twenty years of polling, more Americans prioritize gun ownership than gun control. According to the report, “52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.”
Public opinion on the issues surrounding civilian gun ownership is often shaped by the news of the day; as Pew notes, the mass shootings in Newton and Aurora may have been behind the shift toward support for gun control in 2012. Given that influence, it’s possible that the publicity and anger surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have something to do with the current shift in the other direction. If you have come to doubt that the police are trustworthy, you may be more interested in keeping the means to defend yourself against crime.
That possibility makes Pew’s findings on black opinion especially interesting. The percentage of African Americans who support gun rights has gone up 10 percent since 2012. And when asked whether owning a gun does more to protect people’s safety than endanger it, African Americans had a notably different answer in 2014: “Currently, 54% of blacks say gun ownership does more to protect people than endanger personal safety, nearly double the percentage saying this in December 2012 (29%).”
These findings suggest that gun control advocates may have a problem. The belief that the government should have sole control over the use of armed force and the conviction that the police are untrustworthy and corrupt are in obvious tension with each another. We wouldn’t want to speculate too much on the basis of one poll, and a subsequent tragedy (and media firestorm) may alter public opinion again. But it’s just possible that the anger over police behavior may develop into an advantage for gun rights advocates—even among Democrat stalwarts.
[Note: Post edited for clarity.]