While the party of the president is different now, a look at the polling and election results shows us why it’s still unlikely that Democrats will be able to convince enough Senate Republicans to break through a filibuster for universal background checks.
1. Americans don’t think Democrats reflect their views on guns
If the public was that upset with the GOP’s stance on guns, then they’d trust Democrats more to deal with gun policy.
To be clear, these numbers are close, and no party has a consistent edge on the issue over the last decade. Still, it’s inconsistent with the belief that the public stands behind Democrats on guns.
2. Stricter gun control broadly isn’t all that popular
Just 41% were dissatisfied and wanted stricter gun laws. A plurality (50%) were either satisfied (42%) or dissatisfied and wanted looser gun laws (8%). The percentages on this question from Gallup have been relatively steady over the last two decades.
We can’t be sure why these two similar but different questions came up with fairly different results. At a minimum, it shows how gun opinion isn’t as tightly held as you might believe.
It also seems likely that some who may support more gun control measures are largely satisfied with our country’s gun laws and don’t feel strongly about the issue.
3. Passion remains on anti-gun control side
The people for whom gun control was a big issue in the 2020 election were more likely to favor the Republican presidential ticket.
The fact that the passion was on the anti-gun control side is something we’ve seen in the polling almost every year. With a few exceptions, those who favor looser gun control are more willing to vote on the issue and more likely to spend time on the cause than those who are in favor of stronger gun control.
4. Background check ballot measures don’t consistently outperform the Democratic baseline
When individual measures for gun control are actually on the ballot, they often perform far closer to an issue in which people hew slightly more to the right than the Republican baseline in a state.
In all four cases, the pro-gun control side’s margin was worse in the state than the Democratic baseline in the state in a given year (i.e., Hillary Clinton’s margin in 2016 and the House Democrats’ margin in 2018). In 2016, Clinton won California by 30 points, while gun control won by 27 points. In Maine, Clinton won by 3 points, while gun control lost by 4 points. In Nevada, Clinton won by 2 points, while gun control passed by a single point. Lastly, Washington passed its gun control law by a little less than 19 points in 2018, but House Democratic candidates in Washington won by more than that the same year.
The bottom line is that Republicans have no reason to change their tune on gun control based on polling and election results. Unless something dramatic changes, we’re likely looking at the same no action on gun control from Congressional Republicans.