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04-19-2007, 2:38 PM
Americans Speak on Gun Control
By Melissa Segrest

When madmen go on killing sprees in America, they use guns. Inevitably, in the aftermath, the arguments about gun control begin. But a poll conducted in the days after the Virginia Tech massacre found that the majority of Americans don't fully align themselves with either the pro- or anti-gun arguments.

The MSN-Zogby poll found that 59 percent of Americans do not believe stricter gun control policies would have prevented Cho Seung-Hui from killing 32 people and then himself in the worst mass murder in America's history. The poll found that only 36 percent of those polled believe stronger gun control could have prevented the shootings.

However, arming more Americans with guns is not the answer either, most people say. Slightly more than half of those polled—54 percent—say that more guns would not stop killing sprees. Thirty-eight percent believe a better-armed populace could help prevent such mayhem. (The interactive survey of 1,336 adults nationwide was conducted April 17-18, 2007, and carries a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.)

Despite the noisy debate that is likely to occur in the coming weeks and months about gun rights, only a minority of Americans believes the massacre in Virginia will lead to more gun control. Nearly half—45 percent—do not think the deaths will result in stricter gun laws, and another 40 percent are unsure whether changes would occur.


The most vocal and powerful opponent of gun restrictions, the National Rifle Association, so far has been quiet on the issue, offering only a brief statement on its Web site of condolence to those who lost loved ones on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.

But others groups, from both sides of the gun control issue, are speaking out: "We're all in a state of shock and very sad at what happened," says Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Now is not the time to be raising political questions, but soon our country will have to ask why do we make it so easy for dangerous people to get access to these high firepower weapons. … What we're doing now certainly is not working. We have very weak gun laws, and 32 people plus the gunman were killed in this shooting. But 30 people are killed in gun homicides every day."

Meanwhile, a gun advocacy group, the Second Amendment Foundation, issued this statement: "80 million law-abiding gun owners in this country did not go to Virginia Tech or some other college campus yesterday to unleash carnage. They have harmed no one, and their civil rights should not be erased in response."

According to 2004 statistics, the most recent available, of all the deaths in the U.S. more than 11,500 were from gun-related homicides, and 16,750 people committed suicide by firearm. There's no official count of the number of guns in America, but one survey estimates that the number is 192 million.

Delving Into the Numbers

The MSN-Zogby poll found that younger adults are slightly more likely than older adults to see stricter gun policies as a means of prevention—among those 18 to 29, 39 percent say more stringent gun control could avert tragic shootings, compared to 26 percent of those age 65 and older.

Still, more than half (53 percent) of the younger adults say increased gun control won't help, an opinion that becomes increasingly popular as adults get older. Nearly three in four (72 percent) of those age 65 and older didn't think tighter gun control policies will prevent shootings.

Those who live in large cities are more closely divided on the issue than those who live in less populated areas—49 percent in large cities believe stricter gun control won't help, but nearly as many (47 percent) believe it could prevent shootings.

On the question of arming more Americans, political affiliation led to a stark contrast in opinions. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats do not think more guns would avert tragedies like at Virginia Tech, while only 24 percent of Republicans share that view. Independents are evenly split on that issue. Men are more likely than women to believe that more armed Americans is a viable deterrent. The divide between urban and rural America is large: 62 percent of city dwellers say that arming more Americans would not help prevent such tragedies, while nearly half of rural Americans, 49 percent, believe it would.

More men than women believe that gun control laws will not change in the aftermath of Monday's murders. Political positions did not make much of a difference on this point: 47 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans say they do not believe the laws will change.

A Spectrum of Views

Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group, wonders when the country's political leaders will seriously discuss gun control. "Looking back on the Amish school shooting, we really hoped there would be a serious debate about gun policy in this country at that point, the proliferation of guns," Everitt says. "President Bush held a conference on school violence and never mentioned the word 'gun.' A lot of the reaction we're hearing is, ‘When are we going to talk about this?' "

Charles Carl Roberts IV killed five girls before killing himself in an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., last October.

The gun lobbying groups have been very successful in "stymieing debate," says Everitt. "If you support any moderate gun control policy you're an enemy of freedom. That just dumbs down what really needs to be a serious and thoughtful debate."


Historically, an event like what happened at Virginia Tech gives gun control advocates a slight advantage in polling, says Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun advocacy group. But that bump is short-lived, Gottlieb says. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, polls typically have been more favorable toward gun owners' rights, and Gottlieb doesn't expect these numbers to shift much in the aftermath of Virginia Tech. In fact, he speculates that the public may see it as better reason to arm themselves. "I think the American people today look at this [massacre] and think there's no way any law is going to prevent anyone this crazed… bent on mass destruction. They're not going to abide by the laws, and so the events are going to happen and there's nobody to protect me but me."

Perhaps two regular Americans, on either side of the debate, can say it best.

Kristin Vincenzo works for a wine distributor in Seattle. She says the magnitude of the Virginia Tech shootings should serve as a catalyst for stricter gun control laws, particularly tougher permitting guidelines and safety regulations.

"Those kinds of things make me say, ‘Yeah, we should have tighter gun control laws," she said. "Yes, I would like to see them tightened."

The sheer, horrific magnitude of the massacre made it likely that the subject would stick in the public consciousness and not fade away as a "flavor of the week" issue, she adds.

"I would hope that, if nothing else, the large number of deaths that happened in this incident would have a longer lasting effect on the public, and prompt people to want to do something," Vincenzo says. "I hope this isn't just something that occupies their time until Britney Spears gets out of rehab again or something."

Dr. Lester Dyke is a 51- year-old surgeon who lives in South Texas. He has been a hunter all of his life, and even his five children are active shooters.

"Yes, we are a violent country, there are a lot of guns, there are a lot of people, there's a lot of strife in this country. But you know, we're a free country, we're pretty much the last free country in the world, and whenever you have a lot of freedom you're going to have a lot of people that abuse that freedom," he says. "You have to ask yourself as a society, ‘Are we willing to give up a lot of freedoms and become pretty much of a watchdog state, in order to try to prevent most of these?' "

"We're a people who defend themselves and don't take any guff off anybody," Dyke says. "That's what founded us and that's what kept us free. And I'm kind of proud of that heritage."


Here is where you voice your opinion: http://boards.msn.com/MensLifestyleboards/thread.aspx?ThreadID=262764

04-19-2007, 7:47 PM
31% More gun control

55% More gun rights!!!

14% Neither

Wow! This isn't some rinky dink local news poll, either.
This is MSN, and it didn't get "Calgunned" either.

127,765 votes :eek: ! Even the mighty Calgunners aren't numerous enough to stuff that ballot box.

Ironicaly, I have that old hippy song "The times are a changing" in my head.