walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Guns in America
Race and Public Opinion on Gun Rights

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.]

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  • FriendlyGoat

    So now the conservative white man’s fantasy of shooting unspecified G-men off the front porch (you know, when “that day” finally comes), is being met by a fantasy in the black community that more guns would be useful for repelling local police officers. These trends are conclusive proof of a whole society going nuts, aren’t they? Churches, where are you? Are you opposing this stuff? Are you supporting it?

    • Corlyss

      “So now the conservative white man’s fantasy of shooting unspecified G-men”
      Where do you get this stuff?

      • FriendlyGoat

        The survivalists have been training for years to resist the government “thugs” (as they would call it) coming after them and everyone else. They fantasize all the time about being the real patriots because of their gun training in the woods.

        • Josephbleau

          “So now the conservative white man’s fantasy of shooting unspecified G-men.” As oppoeed to the Liberal White Man/Woman Fantasy of Dorn and Ayers Killing police “G men” with guns and bombs, and the Unabomber dealing death by mail.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I think you know where the record numbers of gun purchases today are coming from. In case you don’t, consider the reasons why it can’t be Dhorn, Ayers and the Unabomber.

    • Boritz

      Some churches are offering concealed carry classes as part of their outreach program.  Sounds okay as outreach even if you don’t like guns.  After all Jesus reached out to those who were spurned in their own society.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Thanks for answering my last sentence in the affirmative.

  • Andrew Allison

    “If you’ve come to believe that the police are more likely to bully and abuse innocent people than to go after actual criminals, you may be more
    interested in keeping the means to defend yourself.” is nonsensical. As recent tragic events demonstrate, even being perceived to be armed in a confrontation with the police can get you killed. The overall shift in attitudes is more likely an unintended consequence of this Administration’s tolerance of violent protest. The shift by African Americans might well be a reflection of the fact that nearly half of all murder victims are black, and the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people.

    • rheddles

      The second amendment exists for a reason. And it’s got nothing to do with black on black violence. It’s got to do with self defense. From other people and from tyrannic governments that try to rule with a monopoly of violence. Blacks should understand they have the same right to protect themselves as anyone else and that the government does not have a duty to protect them. It’s time they armed up as well.

      • Andrew Allison

        I wasn’t suggesting that Blacks shouldn’t arm up, just that TAI’s theory as to why they are doing so doesn’t make sense.

        • rheddles

          Too true.

  • Corlyss

    “The number of African Americans who think that guns are an effective way to protect oneself has doubled in the past two years. Could rising anger over police abuses be a factor?”

    What friggin’ dimwit wrote this?

    Obviously the author doesn’t know about the history of gun control as a means of controlling minorities and keeping them in line. Obviously the author doesn’t know about the black-on-black murder rate, the drug and gang violence that plagues inner city minority neighborhoods (check Chicago death rates for example), and the real need for the innocents to protect themselves and their families (something that Democratic city administrators frustrate at every turn) (check out the petitioners’ briefs in Heller v. District of Columbia and MacDonald v. Chicago). Check out the police effectiveness for crime-ridden neighborhoods. If anything, minority gun ownership might help and certainly couldn’t make matters worse. Black lives matter even when other blacks are doing the killing. The problem is not the white cops. The problem is black criminals.

  • Pete

    “… 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’ve come to believe that the police are more likely to bully and abuse innocent people than to go after actual criminals, you may be more interested in keeping the means to defend yourself.”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    People support gun rights more now because they see two-bit criminals like Brown and Garner being idolized by the media and political establishment.

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