By Ida Smith-Williams[i]
A recent CBS poll shows that the number of Americans who favor stricter gun laws spiked significantly after the January shooting in Tucson that killed six people and critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford. Previous polls have shown declining support for more stringent gun control. However, in this latest poll, nearly half of respondents (47%) said gun laws should be made tougher; 36% said they should remain unchanged; and 12% said they should be relaxed.
Gallup has asked about this topic frequently. In 1990, more than three-quarters (78%) wanted stricter laws, but by 2010 this percent had dropped to 44%. This downward trend in support for stricter gun laws continued despite some highly publicized shootings that occurred over the past decade.
Jumping the Gun. In recent years, gun sales have been increasing, membership in the National Rifle Association has grown, and there are now right-to-carry laws in over 40 states, with 20 states allowing guns in churches.
What do worshipers think about gun laws? In 2001 and in 2008, the U.S. Congregational Life Survey asked this question: “Do you think the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are?” The percentage of worshipers who favor more strict gun laws declined slightly in 2008. Nonetheless compared to national polling results, more worshipers support stricter gun laws.
Stricter gun control? I am not surprised that many worshipers favor stricter gun control. But I am surprised that the percent favoring stricter gun control has decreased since 2001. There is something about the commandment “Thou shall not kill” that seems to be contradictory to being okay with lot of people having access to guns. One pastor from Louisville, however, doesn’t see being a Christian and having firearms as a contradiction. This pastor supports gun rights and encouraged his members to bring guns to church one Sunday. This is, yet another sign that the gun culture is thriving.
Our prayers and thoughts go out to the community of Sandy Hook and to the nation as we try to make sense of the tragedy on Friday.
[i] This version is an updated post of one that ran on January 25, 2011.