As America’s steady stream of mass shootings began to overlap with the era of social media, the responses to those killings have become predictable. Perhaps the most predictable is the tug of war that emerges over gun laws: Are they too lax? Could better laws have prevented the disaster? Is the time right to even have the discussion?
What’s lost in those debates, invariably, is that opinions on the subject of gun control are more nuanced than people tend to recognize.
The most recent polling on gun-control issues offers a good example. In a survey conducted by Quinnipiac University in June, the pollsters asked questions seeking public opinion on our gun laws. The results were not surprising for those paying attention to the subject over the past few years.
Nearly all Americans, for example, support background checks for all gun sales, including those at gun shows.
Yet there’s a partisan split over whether there should be stricter gun laws in the country.
Those advocating new gun laws point to the first result. Those who oppose them note the divide shown in the latter. Republicans tend to think existing gun laws are about right or even too strict. Democrats don’t.
President Trump’s response Monday morning to the mass shooting in Las Vegas focused on offering condolences to those who lost loved ones in the attack. On the campaign trail, he was adamantly opposed to new gun-control laws — a departure from his past statements supporting, among other things, a ban on assault weapons.
His supporters, too, have complicated views on the subject. In July 2016, The Post and our polling partners at ABC News asked Americans whether they supported or opposed stricter gun-control laws and how important the issue was to their vote. Most of those who planned to vote for Hillary Clinton said that they supported new gun-control laws and that the issue was important to their vote. A plurality of those who planned to vote for Trump said that they opposed such laws and that the issue was important.
Note, though, that a quarter of Trump supporters said they opposed such laws but that it was less important to their vote — and another quarter said they actually supported new legislation.
This gets back to our point from Quinnipiac: What those laws actually are matters.
The Pew Research Center asked about this in August 2016. Most Trump supporters — more than 7 in 10 — backed stronger background checks and bans on sales to the mentally ill or those on terrorist watch lists.
Fewer than half supported other measures, such as creating a federal database for gun sales and bans on high-capacity magazines or assault-style weapons.
These views tend to get oversimplified in the debate over America’s gun violence. Most Americans support some specific gun laws; many oppose others. If the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is, as many claim, an inappropriate time to discuss laws addressing gun violence, polling does at least continue to suggest that Americans would like to have certain laws addressed at some point.
That includes a larger chunk of Trump supporters than the president might expect.