What Americans think about the Economy

Fewer than one-third of Americans say things are going better in the country now than they were a year ago, and nearly half say it’s only going to get worse in the coming year, according to a new survey by The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

They are somewhat more optimistic about the current state of the national economy: 39 percent say it’s better and 36 percent say it’s about the same compared to a year ago. …

The nationwide poll was conducted February 15-19, 2017 [Editor’s Note: ​Conducted February 15-19, 2018, per the poll’s methodology statement] using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. CONT.

AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

Current and former NRA members talk about what to do about mass shootings

Republican pollster Frank Luntz gathered a focus group of current and former NRA members in his California home to discuss the organization, gun regulations, and what the country needs to do to keep students safe in their schools. CONT.

Patricia Guerra & Lauren Prince, Vice News

It’s Not All About the NRA

In the aftermath of an unspeakable tragedy, like the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week, anguish needs to find an outlet. Students have taken to the streets and the halls of political power demanding an end to the violence. Parents, in their darkest hour, talk of their pain to cable TV hosts and even to the President of the United States. There are so many questions about why and how this could happen. The natural human reaction is to try and answer them.

One of the most enduring and predictable answers is that the NRA squelches any and all forward movement on the issue of gun legislation. Many point to the power of the gun lobby as the most insidious and powerful force in all of politics.

However, pointing the finger at the gun lobby misses the underlying values that define the owning of a gun in the first place — the values of safety and freedom. CONT.

Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

Words Used to Describe ‘Higher Ed’ Make a Difference

Different words used to describe higher education evoke different confidence ratings among U.S. adults. Americans are considerably more likely to say they have a great deal of confidence in “higher education” than in “colleges and universities.” …

The percentages of Democrats who report having a great deal of confidence in higher education and in colleges and universities is much higher than the percentages of Republicans — 50% versus 26% for the former and 37% versus 12% for the latter. CONT.

Brandon Busteed & Frank Newport, Gallup

How the firearms industry influences US gun culture, in 6 charts

File 20180222 152369 aiseqd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
AR-15-style rifles on display in a Texas retail shop.
AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Michael Siegel, Boston University

Americans have blamed many culprits, from mental illness to inadequate security, for the tragic mass shootings that are occurring with increasing frequency in schools, offices and theaters across the U.S.

Yet in our nation’s ongoing conversation about the root causes of gun violence, the makers of guns are hardly ever mentioned. As a public health researcher, I find this odd, because evidence shows that the culture around guns contributes significantly to gun violence. And firearm manufacturers have played a major role influencing American gun culture.

To help spur this much-needed discussion, I’d like to share some critical facts about the firearm industry that I’ve learned from my recent research on gun violence prevention.

Surging handgun sales

The U.S. is saturated with guns – and has become a lot more so over the past decade. In 2016 alone, U.S. gun manufacturers produced 10.6 million firearms for entry into the market, up from 3.6 million in 2006. Pistols and rifles made up about 85 percent of the total.

In addition, only a small number of gunmakers dominate the market. The top five pistol manufacturers alone controlled half of all production in 2016: Sturm, Ruger & Co., Sig Sauer, Glock, Kimber Manufacturing and SCCY Industries. Similarly, the biggest rifle manufacturers – Remington Arms, Sturm, Anderson Manufacturing, Smith & Wesson and Savage Arms – controlled 62.3 percent of that market.

But that only tells part of the story. A look at the caliber of pistols manufactured over the past decade reveals a significant change in demand that has reshaped the industry.

The number of manufactured large caliber pistols able to fire rounds greater than or equal to 9 mm increased six-fold from 2005 to 2016, rising from just over half a million to more than 3 million. The number of 0.380 caliber pistols – small pistols designed specifically for concealed carry – jumped to over 1.1 million from just over 100,000 during the same period.

This indicates a growing demand for guns with increasing lethality and a design focused specifically on self-defense and concealed carry.

Production of rifles has also increased, rising from 1.4 million in 2005 to 4.2 million in 2016. This is driven primarily by a higher demand for semi-automatic weapons, including assault rifles.

Explaining the stats

So what can explain the jump in the sale of high caliber handguns and semi-automatic rifles?

Gunmakers have become very effective at marketing their wares as necessary tools for self-defense – perhaps in large part to offset a decline in demand for recreational use.

For example, in 2005, Smith & Wesson announced a major new marketing campaign focused on “safety, security, protection and sport.” The number of guns the company sold soared after the switch, climbing 30 percent in 2005 and 50 percent in 2006, led by strong growth in pistol sales. By comparison, the number of firearms sold in 2004 rose 11 percent over the previous year.

There’s strong survey evidence that gun owners have become less likely to cite hunting or sport as a reason for their ownership, instead pointing to personal security. The percentage of gun owners who told Gallup the reason they possessed a firearm was for hunting fell to 36 percent in 2013 from almost 60 percent in 2000. The share that cited “sport” as their reason fell even more.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of gun owners in 2016 reported self-defense as their primary motivator, up from 46 percent in 2004, according to a Harvard School of Public Health survey.

‘Stand-your-ground’ laws flourish

Another possible explanation for the uptick in handguns could be the widespread adoption of state “stand-your-ground laws” in recent years. These laws explicitly allow people to use guns as a first resort for self-defense in the face of a threat.

Utah enacted the first stand-your-ground in 1994. The second adoption did not take place until 2005 in Florida. A year later, stand-your-ground laws took off, with 11 states enacting one in 2006 alone. Another dozen passed such laws since then, bringing to the total to half of all states.

These laws were the result of a concerted National Rifle Association lobbying campaign. For example, Florida’s law, which George Zimmerman used in 2013 to escape charges for killing Trayvon Martin, was crafted by former NRA President Marion Hammer.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of state legislators dedicated to limited government of which the NRA was a member, has helped push the laws around the country using a model drafted by another NRA official.

It’s not clear whether the campaign to promote stand-your-ground laws fueled the surge in handgun production. But it’s possible that it’s part of a larger effort to normalize firearms for self-defense.

This overall picture suggests that a change in firearm industry marketing fueled an increased demand for more lethal weapons. This, in turn, appears to have fostered a change in gun culture, which has shifted away from an appreciation of the use of guns for hunting, sport and recreation and toward a view that guns are a necessity to protect oneself from criminals.

The ConversationHow and whether this change in gun culture is influencing rates of firearms violence is a question I’m currently researching.

Michael Siegel, Professor of Community Health Sciences, Boston University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Support for stricter gun laws rises; divisions on arming teachers

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support stricter laws on gun sales, including an increasing number of Republicans, but the public divides on the idea of allowing more teachers and school officials to carry guns. Arming teachers draws partisan splits, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed, a CBS News poll reveals. …

Mr. Trump gets mostly negative – and heavily partisan – marks for his handling of the Florida school shooting. CONT.

CBS News


Marco Rubio says banning all semiautomatic weapons is ‘a position well outside the mainstream.’ Polls show otherwise.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) unintentionally drew a round of raucous applause Wednesday night when he said at a CNN town hall gathering that, to effectively ban assault weapons, “you would literally have to ban every semiautomatic rifle that’s sold in America.”

Later, he attempted to characterize support for a blanket ban on semiautomatic weapons as a fringe view. “Banning all semi-auto weapons may have been popular with the audience at #CNNTownHall, but it is a position well outside the mainstream,” he wrote on Twitter.

But the latest available polling shows that, in fact, more than half of Americans say they would support an across-the-board ban on all semiautomatic weapons. And academics who study gun violence say that such a ban would be an effective way to combat mass shootings and gun violence overall. CONT.

Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post

Recent polls: Guns

Discrimination in America

A new series of polls from the Harvard Opinion Research Program is shedding light on how Americans experience discrimination on a day-to-day basis. CONT.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Why Trump Isn’t Taking Democrats’ Offer For A Wall

President Trump has a choice. Democrats in Congress have offered to provide billions of dollars for one of his signature campaign proposals: a wall (or something akin to it) along the U.S.-Mexico border. But in exchange, they want a provision that would grant protection from deportation and create a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. In other words: Trump can have the wall, but he must accept what his political base will very likely call an “amnesty.” Or, he can pass on the whole thing.

So far, Trump has opted for no wall and no amnesty. And I think he is making a logical and perhaps even smart political decision. CONT.

Perry Bacon Jr., FiveThirtyEight

Where Gun-Control Advocates Could Win in 2018

The shifting geography of the electoral battlefield is providing gun-control advocates their best opportunity in years to tilt the balance on the issue in Congress.

Since the early 1990s, the National Rifle Association has sustained an impregnable congressional blockade against new gun-control measures. But the weakest link in that chain has always been the Republican-held suburban seats in the House of Representatives, where many voters support reasonable limits on gun access. CONT.

Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic