by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Within minutes of the initial reports of a large-scale school shooting in Connecticut, national media outlets were already starting to make their case for gun control. Has their campaign been effective? John Fund addresses that question in his latest column at National Review Online.
A CBS News poll taken after the shootings found just 26 percent of Americans believe stricter gun laws would have done a lot to prevent the carnage. A Rasmussen poll found only 27 percent think stricter gun control would be the most effective preventive measure. Almost half (48 percent) of those surveyed told Rasmussen that taking better action to treat the mentally ill would be most effective. Another 15 percent think focusing on violent movies and video games is best. An astonishing 86 percent told Rasmussen that they want the United States to take more action to identify and treat those with mental illness.
A recent Gallup poll has the most interesting findings. It surveyed 1,009 adults on Monday night and found that after four full days of media coverage focused on gun control, people felt that increasing police presence at schools (viewed as “very effective” by 53 percent), improving mental-health screening and treatment (50 percent), and decreasing the amount of violence in TV, movies, and video games (47 percent) were the preferred courses of action. Restricting the sale of assault and semiautomatic guns was viewed as a “very effective” strategy by 42 percent of respondents — 61 percent of Democrats, but only 26 percent of Republicans and only 36 percent of independents. Having at least one school official carry a gun was backed by half of Republicans but only a third of independents and a quarter of Democrats.
Those who call for a ban on “assault weapons” or “semiautomatic” weapons are fooling themselves. A semiautomatic weapon is one that ejects an empty shell case and loads the next round into position for firing. And an “assault weapon” is simply a semiautomatic weapon with military-inspired features. CNN’s Piers Morgan claims that they act “like machine guns,” but that is preposterous. Most handguns held today by both criminals and the law-abiding are semiautomatics. A federal ban on some 19 models of “assault weapons” was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and did not measurably decrease the incidence of mass shootings. Overall, the total U.S. homicide rate has fallen by over half since 1980 — which means that, despite the media focus on mass shootings, we are safer as a country than we have been in decades.