There is little doubt that increased urbanization in North Carolina will have some impact on gun laws. Perhaps it already has, given that Republicans recently held legislative supermajorities and were unable to pass constitutional carry or scrap the Jim Crow era pistol permit system. A number of states friendlier to the Second Amendment have passed identical bills in recent years. Two states did it by overriding vetoes from Democrat governors (Missouri and West Virginia).
In the latest Civitas Poll, North Carolina shows some movement toward potential support for more gun control. Certainly, mass shootings and wall to wall media coverage of selective gun violence plays a role in public opinion. Fifty-eight percent polled said gun laws are “not strict enough.” At the same time, 48 percent thought stricter gun laws would have no impact on mass shootings. Support for gun control is often soft though. I’ll explain why that is a little further down. First, here is a look at a 2013 poll from Civitas that gives a divergent snapshot. The question is a little different but extremely telling.
Some states have passed or are considering laws to block federal gun regulations they consider unconstitutional. Do you favor or oppose your state blocking federal gun control laws it considers unconstitutional?
52% Total Favor
39% Total Oppose
Even when polls and public sentiment prefers more gun control, enacting laws can be difficult. First, gun voters tend to be more motivated single issue voters than anyone, particularly if there are any perceived threats to the Second Amendment. When I worked for a conservative Democrat Congressman that had an extremely strong record on the Second Amendment, I was amazed at the mail he received anytime there was a potential firearms bill before Congress. He might get two full giant yellow sacks of mail in the morning, half of them would be postcards filled out from constituents on a piece of gun legislation. In the office we would literally dump them out on the floor and sort through all of the letters in support of gun rights. Every single letter received a response, but letters from constituents on gun rights were often prioritized.
Gun owners take the time to contact their representatives by mail or phone on pending legislation. While I have plenty of complaints about Congress, lawmakers tend to take mail from constituents from their own district seriously. Opponents like to separate the NRA or other gun groups as being propped up by big or “dark money,” but Second Amendment groups have had tremendous success because they have the organized backing of millions of Americans.
However, currently we are seeing an increase in gun control in urban enclaves and blue states. By and large, the exact opposite is happening in conservative states. It’s another issue that shows the great political divisions in our country. Undoubtedly, as North Carolina grows in urban sectors, there will be continued and potentially strengthening agitation for more gun control. A lot of the new transplants from other states come from the Northeast, obviously states with heavy-handed gun regulations.
The results from the latest poll that advocates for more gun control, is soft for another reason. People tend to support gun control if they can’t think of other solutions to prevent mass shootings. Throwing out the term gun control is a convenient and easy answer, particularly if one is not educated on current laws and background checks currently in place.
Second Amendment protections are an important issue in North Carolina. This is still a very rural state, but I think it’s safe to say if more gun laws are enacted here, it will be very telling which direction North Carolina is headed politically overall.