What Happened to Gun Control After Newtown?
The Waning Days of the NRA's Power?
Yale law professor Dan Kahan has persuasively argued that the reason why we seem like two ships passing in the night when debating gun issues is because people disagree about the facts, as they see them:
Gun-control proponents argue that greater restrictions will promote public safety by reducing gun violence and accidents, while gun-control opponents argue that such restrictions will diminish public safety on net by rendering innocent persons unable to defend themselves from violent criminals. We hypothesized that individuals' cultural worldviews would determine which of these empirical claims they accept.
And Kahan's hypothesis turned out to be correct: one's cultural worldview -- hierarchical, individualist, egalitarian, solidaristic -- explained, more than any other variable (e.g., conservative, liberal, gun owner, from the South, black, white & c.), how one viewed the "facts" of gun control.
But after Adam Lanza -- who almost certainly suffered from some form of mental illness -- killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, some sort of gun control measure seemed sure to come out of Congress. The most promising measure appeared to extending background checks beyond their current reach:
Extending background checks to firearms purchases at gun shows and over the Internet, with the aim of making it harder for felons and the mentally ill to acquire weapons, remains popular and not just among liberals. According to a CBS News/New York Times poll taken in the days after the Biden meeting, 92 percent of Americans favored universal background checks. A poll conducted by the Republican pollster Frank Luntz indicated that there was 74 percent approval among self-identified N.R.A. members -- in keeping with the 77 percent approval in a survey of hunters commissioned by the Bull Moose Sportsmen's Alliance.