Every time someone in this country commits a notoriously heinous act with a firearm, we hear the sentiment bandied about in the media that this time Americans may have become so disgusted with the violence that it will finally be possible to move against guns. This style of thinking demonstrates the “politician’s syllogism” at work: Because the writers and talking heads who express this opinion are incapable of questioning their anti-gun assumptions, they are positive that the path to progress leads to the suppression of the Second Amendment. They see the lack of enthusiasm for gun control and take it to mean that Americans are so callous that only acts of unspeakable horror can force compassion upon them. It goes without saying that this belief does the American people a vast disservice.
If the majority of us are not in favor of piling restrictions upon the Second Amendment, it is not because we are heartless—it is because we are mindful of the fact that banning guns leaves only criminals armed. And so it is noteworthy that, while the pundits claim to discern the first signs of a sea change in American opinions on guns, polling reveals no such thing.
A survey of 1,000 likely voters by Rasmussen Reports after a recent tragedy reveals how consistent Americans are on this issue. Only 29 percent thought that stricter gun control laws would have helped to prevent the shootings in Roanoke, Va., while 60 percent expressed the opinion that they would not have made a difference. These numbers are nearly identical to those found in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Despite all the media hoopla, voters are not turning against the Second Amendment or becoming keener on gun control.If the majority of us are not in favor of piling restrictions upon the Second Amendment, it is not because we are heartless—it is because we are mindful of the fact that banning guns leaves only criminals armed.
But while Americans were resolute on this issue, it isn’t accurate to say that their views about mass shootings haven’t evolved at all. One particularly important finding of this latest poll is that a majority—54 percent—of respondents expressed the belief that social media is contributing to the spread of violent crime. Wait—you mean guns may not be the issue?
Too many media pundits treat the refusal to blame guns for the phenomenon of mass shootings as equivalent to denying that there is a problem at all. These poll results show that the majority of Americans don’t have their heads in the sand. They do assign responsibility for public attacks, just not where the talking heads tell them they should. Given that most of the worst killers—we’re certainly not going to name any of them here—have been motivated in large part by narcissism and the desire for attention, it isn’t a stretch to say that the degree of coverage they receive creates a snowball effect that encourages more mass murderers to appear. This is a phenomenon that applies to all mass media—but it does seem like social media could be intensifying the effect.
To be fair, even typically anti-gun outlets have floated this argument occasionally—which is why you’ll even see us agreeing with content from CNN, The Atlantic and The New York Times—but always as a minority opinion. The grudging recognition that the media is perpetuating the problem is usually presented as a complement, not a counterargument, to the primary anti-gun narrative.
But the majority of the American people are not so blinded by anti-gun indoctrination that they can’t come to the obvious conclusion: Guns aren’t the problem. We need to stop undermining the Second Amendment and concentrate on denying these hateful narcissists what they crave most—a place in the spotlight.