Public opinion about gun control appears unmoved by the recent killing spree in Aurora, Colorado, continuing a (non-)trend seen in the aftermath of other mass shootings. But there’s a new, emerging trend that underscores the challenge facing advocates of stricter gun laws.
In a new poll from the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of those polled say the shooting in Colorado is emblematic of an isolated act of troubled individuals, not evidence of broader problems in society. That’s up significantly from what it was after the 2011 shootings in Tucson where former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was injured and the 2007 shooting spree at Virginia Tech.
How people conceptualize these shootings matters. Among those who see the Colorado shooting as part of larger problem, about twice as many prioritize gun control over protecting gun ownership. By contrast, a slim majority of those who think Aurora was an isolated incident — the more common reaction — say gun rights are more important.
Overall opinion remains split on the issue, with 47 percent of all Americans saying it’s now more important to “control gun ownership,” and 46 percent agreeing with the idea that protecting “the right of Americans to own guns” should take precedence. These are similar to the numbers in the last few years. Before 2009, majorities sided with the stricter regulations side of the equation.
As before, these numbers didn’t quickly shift after shooting incidents.