“In the wake of horrific tragedies in Charleston and Sandy Hook, our national conversation persistently returns to guns, but goes nowhere. Why? In part, I think, because we have ignored a fundamental truth: most Americans think lots of ‘common-sense’ gun rules are already law,” writes John Roman, Ph.D., a senior fellow with the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. The danger in this belief is that it prevents us from enacting new laws that are better suited to our needs—if people believe law enforcement is ineffective at enforcing laws that already exist, then they will believe new measures are pointless.
In 2013, Joel Benenson and his colleagues at the Benenson Strategy Group conducted a survey asking whether several laws had already been passed.
“’As the authors of the poll note, ‘[a] clear majority [of respondents] said they believe that the sale of guns to people on the terrorist watch list is banned. Another 29 percent said they don’t know. Such sales are not banned, and the Government Accountability Office has reported that in 2010 alone 247 people on the terrorist watch list passed a background check and legally purchased guns,” Roman writes.
We need to make sure Americans understand current law before we can honestly discuss solutions to the country’s gun violence problem. “If they knew that there were no restrictions on terrorists buying semi-automatic weapons with high capacity magazines guns at Walmart, would that change the narrative and open an avenue for debate?” asks Roman.
We agree that knowing the facts is essential. In the coming days, we’ll be launching a new education campaign to help people know the facts.