The conventional wisdom says one thing on guns – the polls say another…

Gun control is an issue that most people agree is politically dead – the NRA and the gun lobby have won the argument, or at least beaten their opponents into submission. Gun owners’ perceived electoral might has meant that republicans march in lockstep with the National Rifle Association, while democrats are too scared of being seen as anti-gun to propose even the most minor measures, like reinstating the Brady Bill or banning assault weapons. Indeed, despite hope that Americans might soften their stance on guns in the wake of the Arizona shooting, lawmakers in that state are pressing on with efforts to make it even easier to own and carry a gun. On the other side of the country, in Virginia, gun enthusiasts protested on Monday in favour of increased gun rights, even going so far as to march outside the state capitol with their weapons in tow (see here for images and details).

So it is with some shock (and joy) that we learn that Americans do not necessarily agree with these brandishers of firearms and passionate champions of the Second Amendment, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg explains in the Huffington Post:

A new poll shows a remarkable consensus among Americans on gun issues. The poll, conducted jointly by a Democratic and Republican polling firm, was released today by the bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Among its key findings…

  • Americans overwhelmingly believe that felons, drug abusers, and the mentally ill should not have access to guns and that more needs to be done to ensure that their records are in the federal background check system: 90% of Americans and 90% of gun owners support fixing gaps in government databases that are meant to prevent the mentally ill, drug abusers and others from buying guns. Likewise, 89% of Americans and 89% of gun owners support full funding of the law a unanimous Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed after the Virginia Tech massacre to put more records in the background check database.
  • Americans overwhelmingly believe that its time to close the loophole that make it possible for people to buy guns without background checks: 86% of Americans and 81% of gun owners support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from.

Good news. Yet gun control is probably one of those issues where the conventional wisdom will prevail for some time hence, for the simple reason that the people who shout the loudest and carry the biggest guns generally get their way. It’s a shame. Without for a second disputing the validity and sacrosanctity of the Second Amendment, the mentally ill and those with a history of violence should not be allowed to own or carry guns. Whether forbidding them from doing so would have stopped Jared Lee Loughner from killing six people in Tucson is a matter for debate – but it probably would have saved a few lives over the past few years.

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