Political News

Why mass shootings don't change the politics of gun control, in 1 Trump quote

Posted November 6, 2017 9:19 a.m. EST

— There is a tendency after mass casualty events like the Las Vegas shooting last month or the Texas church shooting on Sunday to ask if now, finally, things will change in the gridlocked politics of gun control.

The answer to that question is, always, no. And there's a very simple reason why -- as explained by President Donald Trump when asked at a news conference in Japan about the Texas shooting that left at least 26 people dead:

"This isn't a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event. A very, very sad event, but that's the way I view it."

That's it.

Put another way: Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

Similarly, after the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 in October, Trump referred to the shooter as "a sick demented man" whose "wires are screwed up."

The reality is that for most conservatives and most gun owners, these mass shootings don't move the needle on gun control because, for them, this isn't about guns. It's about mentally ill people. Blaming guns, to their minds, is missing the point entirely.

This view is born out in scads of polling data over the years. A massive recent Pew Research Center poll on Americans' views on guns showed that just three in 10 gun owners believe that restricting the legal sale of guns would result in fewer mass shooting while a majority (56%) of non-gun owners believe that would be the effect. (Another fascinating number from that poll: 54% of gun owners believe there would be less crime in the country if more people owned guns.)

The disconnect between gun rights supporters and gun control advocates in this regard is absolutely vast.

For gun control backers, there is a direct link between the number of guns in the country, the strength of the National Rifle Association's lobbying efforts to keep any further gun restrictions from becoming law and the number of mass shootings in the country.

For supporters of gun rights, there is simply no tie between violence committed with guns and the availability of the guns themselves. They view the right to own a gun as a core freedom; almost three in four gun owners describe the right to own firearms as "essential to their own sense of freedom," according to the Pew poll. Half of all gun owners say owning a weapon is an important part of their "overall identity."

To gun owners, the biggest threat in the aftermath of these mass shootings is not that it might happen again in their community but that politicians will use the shooting as a way to begin to take away their guns.

As evidence, they will note that the shooter in the Texas case was denied a gun license. "How was it that he was able to get a gun?" asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, during an appearance on CNN's "New Day" Monday. "By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun."

Donald Trump Jr. was more blunt on Twitter: "Psycho w illegal gun kills many taken down my law abiding citizen w gun. Which one of these would be out of the equation w more gun control?"

On guns -- like so many other issues in the country these days -- the two parties are not only talking past one another. They seem to be speaking entirely different languages.