In the last few years, gun advocates have made much of the fact that when pollsters ask people broad, non-specific questions about gun laws, like "In general, do you think gun control laws should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?", support for restrictions has gone down, in some cases below 50 percent. As I've discussed before, that doesn't mean that people ever stopped supporting specific restrictions like those we're now discussing, but there were enough polls confirming the decline in support for generalized "gun control" since the 1990s that we can be fairly sure the phenomenon was real. But now, new polling is showing increased support for restrictions. For instance, a CBS poll released the other day, which uses the text I just quoted, showed support for making laws more strict at 57 percent, an 18-point jump from when the question was asked in April and a 10-year high. A new CNN poll produced similar results, with 52 percent saying either that there should be major restrictions on guns or that all there should be no private ownership of guns at all.
So what exactly is going on, and where is opinion likely to go? I think the answer to the first question is only partly that many people were so horrified by the shooting in Newtown that they finally said enough is enough. Perhaps more importantly, people are being exposed to something they haven't seen in a long time: a two-sided debate on guns