Marina Small for NPR
About 1 in 3 people in the United States have a firearm. And many of them are misunderstood by Americans who do not. Researchers say this disconnection makes it difficult to combine shared support for gun control and the prevention of gun violence.
Returning to 2018, for example, the poll shows that most gun owners support raising the legal gun ownership age from 18 to 21. Most red flags support the law, which allows the police to take guns from people deemed dangerous by the courts. In Uvalade, a survey conducted after the mass shooting in Texas shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree.
But many gun owners are reluctant to speak publicly about their support for strong gun control policies, as they feel out of step with gun control lawyers who they think want to snatch all guns. “They feel they are being blamed,” explained Michael Siegel of Tufts University, who co-authored a study based on a survey of nearly 2,000 gun owners in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The survey found that about 70% of gun owners expressed their reluctance to engage in gun violence prevention, in part because of feelings of isolation or as part of the problem of owning firearms. “They blame gun control supporters for the problem of gun violence, don’t understand gun ownership and don’t understand much about guns,” the paper concludes.
Gun owners who support further limits on guns are stuck in the middle. On the one hand, they feel misunderstood by strict gun control lawyers, but many have also moved away from the gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, which backs down against strict control.
“We have this image of gun owners, as you know, protesting against street weapons and gun laws,” Siegel said, but it also represents a small minority within the organized gun lobby.
Less than 20% of gun owners are NRA members, and Siegel’s study found that only 10% of gun owners say guns are an important part of their identity.
General knowledge system
Longtime NRA member Richard Small lives on a farm in Charlotte, Texas, where he says he and his grandson shot at a steel target for fun. He said he was terrified and terrified when gunmen opened fire at Rob Elementary School in Uvalade, killing 19 students and two teachers. He advocates passing more common sense measures for gun owners, including more licensing requirements, background checks and red flag law strengthening. In the wake of the Uvalade tragedy, there is a proposition for his fellow gun owners: “Come and meet me halfway.”
He wants to see a movement. “I hope gun owners, conscientious objectors, stand up and say, ‘You know, that’s enough.'” Small says there is an urgency to slow the genocide.
Small says he no longer identifies with what he sees as propaganda propagated by NRAs and group members whom he sees as being in an extreme position. “They have become almost so defensive and paranoid that the government wants to confiscate their weapons,” he said. “They’re walking around with these ARs, you know, surprisingly, protesting in downtown,” Small said. “It’s gotten out of hand. You know, it’s crazy.”
The loudest voice pays the most attention, says Small. And in Uvalde’s case, he has become more vocal about his support for tougher gun control. He made headlines when he handed over an assault-style rifle of his own to local police after the school shooting, realizing he did not want to own such a deadly weapon and that he did not want to end it with the wrong hand. , Which he says could happen if he sells it at a gun show.
He thought he would be criticized by some in his community, as many had hunted for shooting and fun, but that did not happen. “I’m fine, wow,” says Chhota. When his wife posted on social media about his media presence, hundreds of responses were overwhelmingly positive. “It wasn’t the hate mail I thought I was going to get,” he says.
The younger colleague likes to have one-on-one conversations with gun owners, and he believes that perhaps moderate people like him could represent the silent majority.
“It’s very clear we have to do something,” said Gerardo Marquez, Small’s neighbor and friend. They live on neighboring farms and are both retired school administrators. Marquez has been the principal of a high school for many years and says he became ill after being shot by 18-year-olds. “When will we wake up?” He asked.
Marquez collects guns and hunts pigeons and turkeys for fun, yet he is open to a buy-back program for offloading an assault-style weapon he owns, and, like Small, he supports various measures to prevent gun violence.
Siegel says his research shows that most gun owners share these views. “They support fundamental laws that aim to keep guns out of the hands of people at high risk for violence.”
Part of the solution
Siegel says gun owners really need to be part of the solution. And to do that, he says Americans who don’t have guns must respect the fact that gun owners have legitimate reasons and rights to own firearms. “We don’t have to agree with it, but we do have to respect it,” Siegel said.
Showing gun owners that their point of view is respected can help improve or draw the voices of those who support gun control, like Small and Marquez. “I think things will really start to change when gun owners come out and show their support for these laws,” Siegel said.
An Ipsos poll, conducted shortly after the shooting, found that two-thirds of Americans believe there should be at least moderate gun control. And although there is of course a biased distinction, 53% of Republicans agree with moderate to strong regulation.
“We’ve seen that even among Republicans, we’ve seen a majority, with 78% saying they’re more likely to support a candidate who supports background checks and red flag legislation to buy all new guns,” said Chris Jackson of Ipsos.
He says what it means is that “for Republicans, it’s not really a political defeat, I support the right to own firearms, but it should be limited, it should be responsible.”
Researchers say that if polls show that most Americans, including many gun owners, support the new control system, it will be difficult for politicians to vote against them and represent the interests of their people.