Americans Resigned to Gun Violence?
New Text Analytics Poll Measures American’s Desire for Change After Vegas Shooting
In the wake of the awful tragedy in Las Vegas Monday I like many others viewed the news with shock, sadness, disgust and disbelief. And I believe also with a feeling of helplessness. At least that’s what I prefer to think of it as rather than apathy. The number shot and killed was horrific, but not any more horrific than the Sandy Hook shootings which occurred less than an hour away from us here in Connecticut.
What is the tipping point I wondered Monday morning? How bad does it have to get before people demand change, and what does change look like. Certainly for many an outright ban on all guns would be desired I thought, or would it? In the minds of a sizeable group it seems the second Amendment is as important as freedom itself. But to affect real change we need some consensus if not a majority.
I took the question to representative sample of 1,600 Americans fielded Tuesday - Thursday. Rather than simply asking whether they agreed or disagreed with more gun control, the NRA, second Amendment or some such topic I simply stated “ Gun control is a difficult issue in the US. Reasonably what things do you think could be done about it? [Please as specific as possible]”
The kinds of insights possible with open unstructured questions are impossible to get with forced/multiple choice type questions. The comments represented below represent peoples initial thoughts and responses in their own words off the top of their heads without any influence or suggestions.
Most Popular Answer – “Nothing”
Below is a visualization of the free form answers to the question. Frequency of topic answers on the Y axis, and speed of answering on the X axis.
The most frequent answer to this question among US adults after the worst shooting in US history is “Nothing”. Those answering nothing gave the question exactly 49 seconds of thought on average before answering. Let that sink in for a minute.
Looking toward the right of the plot, we can see those answers which were given after slightly more thought. For instance, the suggestion of “One Gun Per Person”, while given by extremely few people, was given after slightly longer deliberation. Certainly, the second most popular answer “Background Checks” doesn’t seem to be cutting it.
Relative Frequency of Suggested Solutions
Taking a closer look at some of the more popular suggestions, the chart below tells us a bit about where the population is in understanding the issue.
Summarizing this chart, I would say the average American still doesn’t seem willing to take radical steps to curtail gun access and violence.
Almost none of the suggestions would have stopped the Vegas shooter. Hardly anyone suggested strict gun laws such as those in countries like Japan where guns are no longer a problem. “One Gun Per Person” is an interesting but rare suggestion that would also have helped in the Vegas shooting.
However, many of the most popular suggestions, like “Background Checks”, “Banning Automatic Weapons”, “Mental Health Detection” would not have been helpful. Yet others like “Eliminate Semi-automatics” and “Regulate Caliber of Guns” show a real lack of understanding about guns.
An unexpected suggestion picked up by our software was the banning of “Bump/Slide Fire Stocks”. This was mentioned by almost 2% of those giving suggestions. While this answer does show strong understanding of guns and the ‘hack’ the shooter used to fire as if his guns were fully automatic, it is perhaps one of the scariest answers in the chart, and one that even the NRA seems to be willing to accept.
Banning Bump stocks is not likely to make any serious impact at all on future gun violence and is just a distraction and a scape goat. This is unfortunately likely to become a big talking point on the Hill.
Non- Gun Owners who don’t understand fire arms enough to make distinction between jargon and real improvements to our safety owe it to themselves to get educated enough to debate these issues and rally for real change.
Don’t be apathetic, don’t be helpless, make change happen!