As per the Constitution, Americans have the right to keep and bear arms—but who can carry what types of weapons (and where, and when) has become one of the the most divisive issues in American politics. Now, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, for the first time in the past 20 years, public opinion favors gun rights over gun control.
For the first time since they first started asking the question, back in 1993, the Pew survey team found that more Americans think it's important to “protect the right of Americans to own guns” than to “control gun ownership.” At its peak in the late 90s the split was nearly 70/30 in favor of gun control, where the most recent survey has 52 percent of those surveyed prioritizing gun rights.
As the Pew Center is careful to note, the survey sample was weighted to make sure it was representative of the race, education, gender and age distributions, along with a few other factors, of the American population at large.
The swing toward gun rights is part of a long term trend, one “that was only briefly interrupted by the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in 2012,” says NPR.
As opinions about guns have shifted, gun violence has decreased overall, while mass shootings have increased in number. More Americans now think that guns promise more good—as a tool to prevent people from becoming victims of crime—than they pose a threat to the general public, says NPR.