Americans Aren't That Mad Gun Control Failed

The Atlantic
Americans Aren't That Mad Gun Control Failed
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Americans Aren't That Mad Gun Control Failed

After senators filibustered a gun background checks bill, President Obama gave an angry speech, promising that "we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence so long as the American people don't give up on it." But according to a new Washington Post/ Pew Research Center poll, the American people are kind of over it. Less than a majority -- 47 percent -- say they are "angry" or "disappointed" that gun legislation failed to pass after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. That is a lot less than the frequently-cited 90 percent who supported the substance of the bill, universal background checks. A large minority, 39 percent, say they're "relieved" or "happy" that the bill did not advance.

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But a closer look at that 47 percent — yes, it's that number again — who are disappointed or angry shows why it's going to be difficult to turn even that much outrage into electoral consequences for filibustering senators. First, who's mad about the bill's failure? According to the poll, 67 percent of Democrats said they are "angry." They are also postgrads (31 percent), followed by people in the Northeast (26 percent). A fifth of women say they're angry. And then take a look at who's on the other side and "very happy" the legislation died: 29 percent of Republicans, 28 percent of people from the West, and 26 percent of independents and white people without a college education.

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Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, will start airing radio ads attacking Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte for their votes against the bill, Politico's Maggie Haberman reports. In Ayotte's New Hampshire, the 60-second ad will feature two women saying Ayotte had said "she's one of us," but "it sure didn’t take long for her to ‘go Washington." A woman says, "Are you serious? 89 percent of the people in New Hampshire support universal background checks. She just ignored us?

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The Post poll numbers suggest the ads have a better chance of making people mad in Ayotte's New Hampshire than in McConnell's Kentucky. In a secretly taped meeting reported by Mother Jones, McConnell's aides indicated they were preparing opposition research on a potential primary challenger who was a Tea Partier. They noted they could attack a potential Democratic challenger for supporting an assault weapons ban. The Americans for Responsible Solutions ad says that "82 percent of Kentuckians support universal background checks." But the Post poll shows that 22 percent of southerners were "very happy" the bill failed, while only 15 percent of southerners were angry.

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The New Republic's Alec MacGillis argues Wednesday  that "The Gun-Vote Backlash Has Only Just Begun," saying, "It is not at all hard to envision a Democrat running against Kelly Ayotte on a law-and-order-line—here she was, a former attorney general, voting to leave a huge loophole in our system for making sure that felons are unable to purchase guns." But since Ayotte isn't up for reelection till 2016, New Hampshire voters will have to get angrier and make that anger last three more years.

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