Gun control failed because it is not a voting issue to most Americans

There’s a lot of outrage today after the U.S. Senate failed to move a mild gun control measure toward further debate. A bipartisan measure from Sens. Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin to extend background checks to gun shows and weapons bought over the Internet  is dead. It would have died in the GOP-controlled House eventually but its ignoble early death in the Senate is galling to many. President Barack Obama led the outrage with a long retort on Wednesday.

One of the points raised by those outraged by the Senate killing the measure is that 90 percent of Americans support the extended background checks. I imagine that number is likely pretty close to the truth, but don’t expect there to be a wave of public anger that shifts the debate over guns and sweeps pro-NRA pols out of office. (The president more or less made that appeal in his remarks yesterday).

This Gallup poll explains what I mean. Only 4 percent of Americans see guns/gun control as their most important issue. Most may agree that it’s be nice to have tougher background checks, but they are not going to vote against Senator X or Senator Y because of Wednesday’s vote. In fact, I’d wager that among those small minorities who will vote on how a pol votes on gun control, the intensity is higher among opponents of more gun control measures. There basically 55 votes to move the bill forward yesterday (Sen. Harry Reid voted no for a procedural reason), but it’s in no way sure that even the mild Toomey-Manchin bill would have cleared the Senate in a final vote. And, frankly, it would have been dead on arrival in the U.S. House.

Jennifer Steinhauer, writing in the New York Times today, sums up the recent legislative comedy well. “The 68 votes last week to allow the debate on gun legislation to proceed was a mirage, a temporary triumph granted by senators willing to allow shooting victims and their survivors the vote they sought with absolutely no intention of supporting the final legislation and crossing the gun lobby or constituents who see gun rights as a defining issue.

Charles W. Cooke, writing in the conservative National Review, also notes that despite supporters bringing gun violence victims such as former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and families of Newtown victims, to cheer for the various congressional gun control bill, no gun control advocates “could get past the fact that laws banning assault weapons, limiting magazine size, and forcing background checks upon all gun transfers would do nothing to stop maniacs. They could not present ploys such as “if it can save one life . . . ” without looking manipulative and desperate. People can tell when their representatives don’t know what they’re talking about, and they know when they’re being played.”

The best gun control advocates can hope for is that the heightened conversation on gun control since the December Newtown atrocity continues. Right now, it’s not going anywhere in Congress.

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27 Responses to Gun control failed because it is not a voting issue to most Americans

  1. J. Hartwell says:

    The reason this didn’t pass is the senate is filled with cowards that don’t represent the majority of Americans. This will resolve itself in time.

    Also, I’m amazed and disgusted that you’d continue quoting the Rand Paul canard that the White House “brought” Newtown families as props. Don’t you think it’s possible that these heart broken people ASKED to voice their opinion?

    Yesterday was a dark day for Washington and today’s a dark day for the Standard’s Editorial page.

  2. Brent Glines says:

    J. Hartwell, if a majority of Americans wanted the gun control legislation, how does that square with the Gallop poll Doug cited that found that only 4% of Americans think gun control is an important issue?

    • J. Hartwell says:

      I’m NOT for banning assault weapons or even high-capacity clips—as I don’t necessarily see those steps as stopping potential atrocities. But expanding background checks is somehow bad? Really? I frankly don’t see a rational argument against that. Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist that thinks Bush blew up the WTC, and Obama is coming for your guns.

      • Brent Glines says:

        What will expanding background checks do when the checks that are currently made do not result in the prosecution of people attempting to make an illegal purchase?

        According to The New York Times, “Nearly 80,000 Americans were denied guns in 2010, according to Justice Department data, because they lied or provided inaccurate information about their criminal histories on background-check forms. Yet only 44 of those people were charged with a crime.”

        This tells me that we do not need laws for more background checks, but rather, we need to to enforce our existing laws, and prosecute those who break the law.

      • hawg says:

        I don’t see a rational argument against requiring everyone, you or dealer, to confirm the person you sell a car to does not use alcohol. there should be a government alcohol registry just for this sort of “common sense” safety measure.

        goose and gander kid of thing dontcha think? certainly if it saves one life right?

      • Asa says:

        I don’t think Bush blew up the WTS’s. I do believe Obama is coming after our guns though. Remember, this is the crew who’s mantra is “don’t let a disaster go to waste”, meaning use tragic events to bolster your agenda. Such as using the Newton parents as props. Even by their own admission the proposed legislation would have done nothing to prevent the events at Sandy Hook. So why were the parents used?
        This whole thing was nothing more than political posturing by the administration for the 2014 election. They anticipated it passing the Senate, until 4 Democrats voted it down. Then once it passed the Senate, they knew it would never pass in Congress. That GOP lead Congress would then be used as the whipping post for 2014. That’s why Obama was so mad yesterday. His grand plan collapsed, mainly because of 4 democratis senators.

  3. TV says:

    1. I agree that it’s going nowhere.
    2. It didn’t pass yesterday because of, yes, cowards in the Senate.
    3. The concept of “cowardice” squares easily, as Doug stated. (a) 90 percent of Americans agree that background checks should be in place; (b) only 4 percent say it’s not their most important issue. (It’s not mine either, but it does matter to me.) The fact that Senators knew that 90 percent of senators knew the legisltation is both good and supported by 90 percent of Americans … added to the fact that those senators knew that only 4 percent of people might vote them out of office if those Senators voted for the legislation … means that they learned the might of a loud Tea Party minority (the 4 percent, in this case?) that threw out, say, Bob Bennett, among others. So they caved to the threat from a loud minority instead of representing the 90 percent. That action=hell, it’s almost the definition of cowardice in politics: knowing what’s right but voting against it solely (in most cases) because of potential political fallout.

    As for Charles W. Cooke? That quoted line makes me punch him. But I won’t.

    • Brent Glines says:

      I keep hearing this 90% number. Where does that statistic come from? I suspect it might be bogus.

      Instead of cowardice, it may be that Senators were abiding by the wishes of their constituents, as they are supposed to be doing.

  4. TV says:

    (Well, you know what I meant, anyway!)

  5. rls says:

    – ok, only four percent of americans consider gun control their primary issue — that doesn’t mean that gun control is not ONE of their issues — and when 90 percent of americans (including many law-abiding gun-owners) want universal background checks , why are all those nra-controlled u.s. senators voting against it? –

    — oh, wait, i just answered my own question — those senators don’t respond to what their constituents want, they respond only to what the nra wants — i agree with mr. hartwell — they’re cowards —

    • Doug Gibson says:

      I’m eager to see what impact this proves to have on the 2014 elections. Right now, I think pols think it will be little.

    • Brent Glines says:

      RLS, I keep hearing this 90% number. I don’t know where that comes from. Do you?

      • rls says:

        brent — posted a poll showing 94 percent of americans favored background checks — only six percent opposed them — the link is

        — also, read gabrielle gifford’s editorial in the nytimes — she calls the senators who opposed background checks cowards, flat out –

      • Brent Glines says:

        Ah, that must be why I couldn’t find it. I have been searching for a poll saying that 90% of Americans support the gun control amendments in the current legislation.

        That’s a problem. It’s one thing to say that 90% of people generically support gun control, but it’s another thing altogether to say that 90% of people support THIS gun control. Most people supported health car reform in general, but a majority of people support repealing ObamaCare.

        The devil is in the details. This isn’t an Apples to Oranges comparison, it’s a Watermelon to Ping Pong Balls comparison.

        • Michael Trujillo says:

          “Ah, that must be why I couldn’t find it.”

          Because you never pay attention to what the other person is stating but, rather, something you’ve made up in your head. Doug even lays it out in his blog and you STILL don’t get it. (Although, to cut you some slack, Doug often doesn’t explain things well.) Please leave the comments board for those who offer more cogent arguments.

  6. TV says:

    Brent: If I take the time to Google that statistic, AND come up with the answer to your question (where did it come from), will you then stop posting this: “Instead of cowardice, it may be that Senators were abiding by the wishes of their constituents, as they are supposed to be doing.” Since, you know, they WOULDN’t be abiding by the wishes of thei constituents — well, 10 percent of them.

  7. midwinter says:

    Americans like guns, and cost of our love of guns is that, occasionally, a classroom full of children is going to get killed. And we’re OK with that.

    I do not know why more people don’t say this.

  8. Brent Glines says:


  9. hawg says:

    to midwinter, good death, bad death?

    Americans like cars {guns}, and cost of our love of cars {guns} is that, daily {occasionally}, about 115 {a classroom full} of adults and children is going to get killed. And we’re OK with that.

    I do not know why midwinter {more people} don’t say this.

    • midwinter says:

      I do not disagree with you at all.

      Americans like cars. Americans driving cars kill thousands of people every year. We are OK with that. I do not know why more people don’t say this.

      Did you think I wouldn’t agree with you?

  10. charles w pfeiffer says:

    you people crack me up you complain about gun control, the problem was the nut job on anti depressants who killed innocent kids period pass all the laws you want oh wait we alreadyhave 22,000 gun laws on the books if you are going to complain about guns which statiscally affect a small percentage of the population why dont all you whiney liberal marxist control freaks have automobile control. Everyone knows more people are killed every year by wreckless people driving poorly. Better yet why dont we have background checks before someone buys a car or privately sells a car could they have a history of drunken driving wreckless driving.People grow up and except responsibilty for your own actions

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