Public support for gun control has been steadily declining, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling that strengthens an individual’s right to own firearms and President Obama has said nothing to suggest he will take on gun-rights enthusiasts.
Gun rights advocates, including some in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement for whom the specter of gun restrictions is a recurring theme, are planning to march in Washington, D.C., and some individual states on April 19.
Speakers scheduled for the “Second Amendment March” in D.C. include
- Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, a conspiracy-minded, antigovernment organization composed mostly of active-duty police and military officers and veterans;
- Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who travels the country preaching about the evils of the federal government;
- Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, who advocated the formation of citizen militias in the United States in the early 1990s and addressed a three-day meeting of neo-Nazis and Christian Identity adherents in Colorado in 1992; and,
- Nicki Stallard, a transsexual gun rights activist who is active in Pink Pistols, a gay gun rights organization.
Gun rights supporters assumed the worst even before Obama was elected. The National Rifle Association initiated a membership drive dubbed, “Prepare for the Storm in 2008.” In the months before and immediately after Obama’s election, firearms and ammunition sales soared in anticipation of new gun restrictions. Those fears were reinforced a month after Obama took office, when Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration would try to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration.
But the administration quickly backpedaled. Not only has the president made no effort to restrict gun ownership, he even signed legislation allowing guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains. (These provisions were amendments to larger, unrelated pieces of legislation that he supported.) The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which endorsed Obama in 2008, recently gave him a grade of “F” on every issue on which it scored him.
There are other reasons to think gun rights supporters would be content. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s strict gun control law and reversed years of lower court decisions holding that the intent of the Second Amendment was to link the right of gun possession to militia service. The opinion “delivered a bold and unmistakable endorsement of the individual right to own guns,” The Washington Post reported.
And there’s still more happy news for the gun enthusiasts. Poll after poll shows a steady decline in support for gun control. For example, a Gallup Poll last October asked, “In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?” Only 44% chose “more strict,” the lowest number in at least 10 years. In April 1999, by contrast, 66% favored stricter laws. The same poll asked if a law should be enacted that bans the possession of handguns, except by police and other authorized persons. Only 28% answered in the affirmative – the lowest percentage in the 50 years Gallup has asked the question. In 1959, 60% favored a handgun ban.
A CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted in April of last year asked, “In general, do you feel the laws covering the sale of handguns should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?” Some 60% said stricter, but that was down from 66 percent from two years earlier, and down from 71% in 2000.
A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll taken in May 2009 asked respondents which strategy would more likely decrease gun violence – better enforcement of existing gun laws or more laws and restrictions of obtaining guns. Forty-seven percent of those who answered said better enforcement, compared to 41% in 2000. And 34% said they favored more laws and restrictions, a decline from 37% in 2000.
Despite the dearth of evidence that their rights are in peril, gun enthusiasts are gung-ho on the planned marches. “The purpose is to remind the U.S. government that it is our right to keep and bear arms, and that right shall not be infringed,” the Second Amendment March website states. Organizers say they have contacted Glenn Beck to see if he’ll support them. One vocal gun rights guy who won’t be speaking at the Washington march is rocker Ted Nugent. It seems his oratory carries a hefty cost.
“While Mr. Nugent would be a great asset to the march, we simply cannot afford him,” the organizers’ website says.