In the wake of a constant onslaught of mass shootings, the media’s attention turns once again to the topic of gun control. If a majority of Americans agree that we need stricter gun laws, why aren’t we seeing a change?
Polls conducted by Monmouth University in 2022 found that 54% of Americans agree that there should be restrictions on the second amendment. An even more staggering 83% said they believe that comprehensive background checks should be required for any firearm purchase.
Though we are led to believe that our elected officials vote with our preferences in mind, unfortunately, the system does not always work this way. Proof of this was seen in the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, a decision that 72% of Americans opposed. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that Supreme Court Justices are not elected but assigned by sitting presidents and then serve lifetime terms. But if this phenomenon was restricted to just the Supreme Court, laws being passed by our Congress members should reflect American preferences, but they don’t.
Americans have actually stayed more consistent in their views on gun control than one might think. Historical trends tracked by Gallup reveal that since 1992, seven years prior to the Columbine High School shooting, a majority of Americans believed that gun laws should be stricter.
In addition, Gallup also reported that voter dissatisfaction has been growing on subjects of gun control and policy. Their surveys have found that 40% of Americans reported feeling dissatisfied with current gun control laws in 2023, which has steadily risen from the 29% reported originally in 2001. Though political discourse would have one believing that Americans are more divided than ever, statistics have shown that voters have and continue to agree on some of these hot-button issues.
Beyond guns and reproductive health, various voter surveys found that 71% of Americans support same-gender marriage, and 63% feel the federal government is doing too little about climate change. With many worried that same-gender marriage will appear on the SCOTUS docket sooner rather than later, and daily scientific studies warning of the irreversible damage being done to the environment, one would suppose that lawmakers would vote on various policies with their constituents’ preferences in mind. Yet through decades of voter dissatisfaction with gun control, we are still without a federally mandated system for background checks, databases of gun owners, or wide-sweeping red flag laws.
In addition to being widely agreed upon by American voters, the issues of gun control, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and climate action all have one other thing in common: multi-billion dollar industries lobbying against voter interests.
The National Rifle Association spent $2,630,000 on lobbying in the 2022 fiscal year alone. $1.5 million was spent on anti-abortion lobbying in the same year by just two organizations. Perhaps the most egregious is the $124.4 million spent on federal lobbying by oil and gas companies. Though more detailed topics involving LGBTQ rights, especially in regard to transgender people, have seen public opinions split, the hypocritical nature of lobbyists persists in this sector as well.
How can individual voters compete with multibillion-dollar industries that can and do influence legislators through campaign “donations”? How can a country that has been tricked into engaging in culture wars and pseudo-science conspiracy theories reunite under their shared ideologies? Unfortunately, it is up to the very people profiting from lobbying to regulate themselves.