When 26-year old Chris Harper Mercer opened fire at an Oregon community college earlier this month killing 9 people, the gun control debate was once again thrust into the national spotlight just a little over a month after Vester Flanagan gunned down a reporter on live television and just three months after 9 worshippers were fatally shot at an African American church in downtown Charleston.
The arguments are always the same on both sides. On the one hand there are those who contend that easy access to firearms and the very existence of the Second Amendment are to blame for the violence. On the other side are those who say that mental health is the problem and that in fact, the world would be a safer place if more people had concealed carry permits (i.e. if more people were carrying around guns in public).
As is always the case, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but from a kind of mutually assured destruction/ deterrence perspective, there does seem to be some merit to the idea that one responsible citizen with a handgun might well be able to make a difference in scenarios like that which played out at Umpqua Community College. That’s not to say that the best thing to do is turn the entire country into the Wild West where disputes are solved at ten paces in the middle of a dusty street at high noon, only that it’s a lot easier to stop someone who is determined to shoot innocent people if you have a gun yourself.
Against this backdrop, we bring you the following from Gallup whose most recent poll shows that the majority of Americans think the country would be safer if more people carried firearms after passing a criminal background check and training course. Here’s more:
A majority of Americans, 56%, believe that if more Americans carried concealed weapons after passing a criminal background check and training course, the country would be safer.
These results are from Gallup's annual Crime poll conducted Oct. 7-11. In the wake of mass shootings at schools and other public places, some have argued that the shootings could have been stopped if any of the victims had carried weapons. Others argue that having more citizens carrying weapons can lead to more violence and accidental shooting.
Among key subgroups, Democrats and those with postgraduate education are least likely to believe that more concealed weapons would make the U.S. safer. Republicans and gun owners are most likely to say it would make the nation safer. Younger Americans are more likely to choose the "safer" option than those aged 30 and above.
The seemingly continuous incidence of mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years underscores the need for a focus on what can be done to prevent such tragic events in the future. Previous Gallup research has shown that Americans believe a failure of the mental health system to identify individuals who are a danger to others and easy access to guns are more to blame for mass shootings than other causes tested.
Gallup's most recent poll on gun control shows that a majority of Americans favor stricter gun sale laws in this country. At the same time, however, less than half of Americans believe that one such stricter law -- universal background checks -- would prevent mass shootings. In fact, a majority say that if more Americans carried concealed weapons after passing background checks and training, the nation would be safer.
From a sociological perspective, the interesting thing here is that the spirit of the Second Amendment to a certain extent harkens back to citizens' right (indeed, their civic duty) to resist injustice in the event government becomes oppressive. Now, the social fabric of the US has apparently been stretched to the point that citizens need to exercise their Constitutional right to bear arms just to keep from getting shot in math class or at the movie theatre.
We'll leave it to readers to determine what that says about where society is headed going forward.