By: Amy Jo Underwood
Gallup reports that fewer Americans support an increase in gun laws in 2020 in comparison to 2016. This is due partly to the lack of mass shootings in 2020. Gun sales continue to increase across the nation during a year filled with lockdowns, riots, and political uncertainty.
Reports from Gallup show that more Americans are in favor of gun rights in 2020 than the last several years. Two major factors contribute to the trend in public opinion of gun laws: the number of mass shootings and the demographics of the community in question.
Gallup reports that the number of Americans in favor of stricter laws on gun sales in the U.S. tends to be proportional to the frequency of mass shootings. When there are more frequent shootings in a given year, Americans are more likely to support stricter gun laws. When stories of major shootings are less frequent, people are generally in favor of more freedom. Gallup reports that only 43% were in favor of increasing restrictions in 2011, but it switched to 58% after the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting. 2
Demographics play a role in gun law stances, as well. Gallup writes that women, Democrats, and those who do not own firearms are most likely to be in support of stricter gun laws. In a Gallup survey taken in September and October 2020, 46% of men reported that they were in favor of more stringent gun laws, while 67% of women answered that they supported the laws. 85% of Democrats, 60% of Independents, and 22% of Republicans answered that they supported more strict gun laws. 72% of those who did not own firearms stated that they were in favor of more gun laws, while only 26% of gun owners responded that they supported an increase in restrictions and laws. Additionally, those in cities and suburbs, as well as the East and West coasts, are more likely to support strict gun laws.
Gallup reports that a notably low number of Americans are against the possession of handguns, with 25% of respondents in favor of banning the weapons, and 74% in support of the continued protections on the ownership of handguns. (The historic low of those in favor of banning handguns in the last forty years was 23%). Rasmussen reported in August 2020 that 27% of gun-owning households added at least one firearm in the previous six months.
Gun sales have accelerated dramatically in 2020, with six million guns sold in the first three months after the Covid outbreak. Sales continued to increase during the beginning of nation-wide protests and riots. Researchers at the University of California reported that nearly half of Californians who purchased firearms between the beginning of lockdowns in March and October 2020 were first-time gun owners. The researchers found that the primary reasons for purchasing guns were concerns about lawlessness, civil unrest, and government collapse.
Amy Jo Underwood writes from Alabama