Unmoved

Anyone imagining that the shootings in Colorado last night will create some sort of groundswell of support for gun control (or even gun safety) legislation should read this post from WaPo’s Chris Cillizza:

In 1990, almost eight in ten Americans said that the “laws covering the sales of firearms” should be made “more strict” while just 10 percent said they should be made “less strict” or “kept as they are now”. By 2010, those numbers had drastically shifted with 54 percent preferring less strict or no change in guns laws and 44 percent believing gun laws should be made more strict.

Public opinion has also proven immune to past high profile tragedies involving guns. In 1999, when Gallup asked the question six times after the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, the number of those in favor of stricter laws ranged from 60 to 66 percent. The “less strict” number ranged from 5 to 9 percent and the “stay the same” number ranged from 25 to 31 percent.

The opinions were similar after the shootings at Virginia Tech in April 2007. By October of that year, 51 percent favored stricter gun laws, a 5 percent decline from a similar Gallup survey taken in the fall of 2006….

And, in the wake of the attempted assassination of [Gabrielle] Giffords, that pattern played out again — with little obvious change in how people view society’s relationship with guns.

We could debate for hours why this is the case–maybe it’s desensitization, maybe it’s a feeling of remoteness from the events, maybe people think wackos will get around gun laws anyway, or maybe people really are buying the gun lobby’s argument that more folks packing heat is their best protection against gun violence. But the evidence is pretty clear: last night’s events won’t change public opinion.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.