InFocus: What kind of gun laws can we expect and will they make an impact?

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This week, Vice President Mike Pence warned that Democrats are “motivated” to take back the House and Senate in November. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Pence said: “It would be a disaster for our cause if Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the House again… This movement should know it’s a very real threat. … They’re doing everything they can to try to win back the Congress next November.” [source]

Our chief concern, of course, is the potential for an “assault” weapons ban and other restrictions on gun ownership. But what are the chances? For now, it doesn’t look like President Trump is seriously considering it, however, he is supportive of banning bump stocks. That’s a bit of political give and take, and it also removes the issue from the Democrats’ campaign platform in November. But Trump does run the risk of alienating his base if he gives too much on guns. Case in point: the president wants to raise the minimum age for buying “military-style” rifles from 18 to 21, which would have prevented the Florida shooter from purchasing an AR-15 from the gun store, but he’s getting a lot of push back from veterans and other gun rights activists. According to available data, only 15 of the 91 mass shooters since 1982 have been below the age of 21. [source] The average age of a mass shooter in the U.S. is 34, so while the law may make an impact on school shootings, it’s unlikely to have an impact on mass shootings in general. And this law would do virtually nothing to stop a potential shooter who’s determined to carry out a mass shooting.

As for other Americans, a new Quinnipiac Poll finds that 66 percent of those polled favor stronger gun laws, the highest in the history of the poll. And 67 percent of Americans, according to those polled, favor a “nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons”. The same poll says that Americans favor a Democrat-held House starting in 2019, 53 percent to 38 percent. [source] As Nancy Pelosi back as the Speaker of the House, we’re very likely to see a fast-moving attempt to enact another “assault” weapons ban.

I don’t put too much stock in this poll, and it also doesn’t provide its methodology. As is the case with many polls, Democrat voters are over represented because, as pollsters say, there are more Democrats in America. Concerns over its accuracy aside, the poll as a bellwether is not looking great.

Also of interest: an article entitled, “I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise,” published at the Washington Post, points out why proposed gun control laws are unlikely to solve a lot of gun crime. Here are some takeaways from the article and the research:

  • Two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Few gun laws would prevent these deaths.
  • There are around 8,000 gun murders each year; a small fraction of those deaths are mass shootings.
  • The second-leading cause of gun deaths (about 20%) are homicides of men aged 15 to 34; most of which are due to gang violence. (Most violent crimes are attributable to a very small population of the U.S.)
  • There is no evidence that Great Britain’s gun ban and buyback programs saved any lives. In fact, the number of crimes involving guns continued to rise after the gun ban.
  • Researchers found that those who committed homicide and suicide in Australia, following the country’s gun ban, simply substituted guns for other weapons.
  • Despite what appears in the U.S. headlines, there is no clear evidence from Australia or Great Britain that gun bans actually prevented or reduced mass shootings. [source]

I don’t expect any significant gun legislation before 2019, and it’s possible that no significant gun legislation (i.e., the “assault” weapons ban) will occur under the Trump administration. The president has expressed support for a number of actions — raising the age limit to purchase rifles, fixing the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, and banning bump stocks — and we could absolutely see some fast movement on these. Despite a very strong mainstream media narrative, which more resembles propaganda than news, it’s very unlikely that we’ll see the renewal of the “assault” weapons ban any time soon. – MS

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