FiveThirtyEight has up a post about attitudes toward gun ownership in the U.S. Drawing on General Social Survey data, they show actual ownership of guns has gone down over time; less than 40% of American households now report having one:
You might expect that, as fewer Americans own guns themselves, support for the right to own personal firearms might decrease, as fewer people might feel a strong personal interest in the issue and restricting or banning access to guns wouldn’t, presumably, affect them directly or bring up an emotional image of agents storming into their homes. Yet we don’t see this at all. In fact, Gallup poll data indicate that support for banning handguns has decreased over time as well, with fewer than one third of Americans supporting such a policy:
Silver suggests that changes in political rhetoric, particularly more vocal and unequivocal support for gun rights by the Republicans and less emphasis on banning guns by Democrats, may explain some of this change. I’m sure that’s part of it; but that leaves unanswered why the political rhetoric changed, particularly after 1992 (when, as Silver demonstrates, the Republican Party platform became more pro-gun/anti-restriction, while the Democrats made sure to start stressing their overall support for some basic right to gun ownership by individuals, though still pushing for some regulations). And aside from that, the biggest drop in support for banning handguns came during the ’60s and ’70s, before the change in party rhetoric, so what do we make of that?