As we get further away from the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, and the political focus shifts away from proposed gun reforms, it stands to reason that public support would diminish for new restrictions. It wouldn't be the first time we saw a public-opinion spike after a horrific event, only to fade soon after.
It was interesting, then, to see the results of the latest Pew Research poll, which found support dipping from earlier highs, but not quite as much as I would have guessed. In all, 81% of Americans support broader background checks on firearm purchases -- not quite the 9-out-of-10 data we saw in previous months, but not far from it, either. What's more, note that 81% of self-identified Republicans support background checks for private gun sales, too.
So what's the catch? Republicans support the concept, but were far less sure about the legislation.
Republicans are decidedly less supportive of this legislation than of the general idea of making private gun sales subject to background checks; 57% support the Senate bill, while 81% favor expanding background checks. Many of those who have reservations about the bill express concerns that it includes other restrictions beyond background checks, or that it opens a 'slippery slope' toward more government power.
This, in a nutshell, is why the NRA and congressional Republicans lied so blatantly and so often about the effects of the Manchin/Toomey proposal -- Americans hear bogus claims, are unsure what to believe, and doubts are raised about the merit of popular ideas.
One other polling detail on guns to remember: in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, by a three-to-one margin, Americans blame congressional Republicans for killing the background check bill.
I mention this, not only because it helps explain the GOP's unpopularity, but also because an entire legion of Beltway pundits insisted President Obama was responsible for the actions of congressional Republicans. This never made any sense, and it appears the public overwhelmingly disagrees.