Post-Parkland Poll: By Double Digits, Americans Prefer Focus on School Safety and Mental Health Over Gun Control, But...

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Posted: Mar 20, 2018 10:25 AM
Post-Parkland Poll: By Double Digits, Americans Prefer Focus on School Safety and Mental Health Over Gun Control, But...

That headline highlights the good news in for Second Amendment supporters regarding Gallup's new polling on public policy and school shootings, which Chris covered yesterday.  The bad news: Even though voters would still prefer lawmakers to emphasize school safety and mental health priorities over gun control measures, that gap has closed considerably since the Newtown massacre in 2013.  Back then, Americans split 2-to-1 against gun and ammunition restrictions versus the other broad category of options.  That 35-point spread has since shrunk by 20 percentage points:


Dig deeper into the data and you find overwhelming support for a number of policy ideas, including at least 86 percent of respondents in favor of the following: (1) More training for police officers responding to active shootings, (2) background checks for all gun sales, (3) more security for allowing people into schools, and (4) programs to identify and manage students who may post a threat.  Majorities also support raising the gun-purchasing age from 18 to 21 (68 percent) and banning the sale of "semi-automatic weapons such as AR-15" (56 percent).  The only proposal listed that polled below 50 percent was arming teachers (42 percent), though I suspect if the issue were framed as allowing some teachers to volunteer for training to be armed -- especially those with law enforcement or military backgrounds -- that number would jump.  

There are strong practical and constitutional reasons to resist bans on semi-automatic rifles, and specifically the country's most popular gun in that category.  And it's true that a tiny fraction of gun homicides are committed with long guns of any variety -- while the public overwhelmingly opposes unconstitutional efforts to ban handguns, which are the tools used in the vast majority of gun deaths, most of which are suicides (gun violence in America has dropped dramatically since the 1990's).  But gun rights advocates need to realize that public opinion is shifting and adjust their strategy accordingly. As far as responsible public policy is concerned, addressing some of the lowest-hanging fruit, on which there is broad consensus, seems to make the most sense.  On that score, the STOP School Violence Act is an obvious starting point.  The bill passed the House nearly unanimously last week and is headed to the Senate, where it has attracted the bipartisan sponsorship of both Florida Senators -- one from each party -- and a host of conservative Republicans.  Here's a summary of what that law would do, with a focus on Gallup's second broad category mentioned above:

The Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018, or the STOP School Violence Act, reauthorizes and amends the 2001-2009 bipartisan Secure Our Schools Act to offer Department of Justice grants to states to help our schools implement proven, evidence-based programs and technologies that STOP school violence before it happens.  
 
The bill permits grants to fund evidence-based programs and practices to:

- Train students, school personnel, and local law enforcement to identify warning signs and intervene to stop school violence before it happens;

- Improve school security infrastructure to deter and respond to threats of school violence, including the development and implementation of anonymous reporting systems for threats of school violence;

- Develop and operate school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams; and

- Facilitate coordination between schools and local law enforcement.

On the question of background checks, a bipartisan 'fix NICS' bill co-sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) is designed to tighten up holes in the existing system -- which has failed on multiple occasions in recent years, with catastrophic and lethal consequences.  Sen. Marco Rubio has also rolled out his support for a version of (apparently Trump-backed) gun violence restraining orders, which would help keep guns out of the hands of disturbed individuals, as flagged by those closest to them (with due process protections in place).  This last piece is particularly relevant given the recent revelations that the Parkland killer had been identified as an emotionally-unbalanced threat several times, including a 2016 recommendation that he be involuntarily committed to a mental institution.  When Rubio tweeted about that latter development, one particularly demagogic Parkland student activist accused the Senator of "shifting blame:"


This student has made excuses for the armed officer who stood outside the school while the massacre (which he could hear) was taking place, while pointing the finger at the NRA (and by extension millions of law-abiding gun owners).  He has consistently been guilty of precisely the sort of blame shift of which he accuses Rubio -- who happens to be a member of the party this teenager reflexively opposes and routinely attacks.  It's also worth noting that the now-familiar club of anti-gun activists from Parkland dismissed the 'STOP' bill on 60 Minutes Sunday evening because it doesn't address their preferred issue.  Prominent survivors and family members who've lobbied hard for the legislation were not featured on the broadcast.  It's almost as if there's an agenda at play.  Speaking of which, I'll leave you with this episode of CNN smearing Rubio in embarrassing fashion: