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Reconciling Americans’ Opposing Desires on Gun Control

Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

In a Gallup poll five days after the Pulse shootings, 63 percent of Americans said they thought that making it harder to buy assault weapons would prevent similar incidents. But in the same poll, 64 percent of respondents said they thought allowing more people to carry concealed weapons would prevent mass shootings. On the face of it, these seem like contradictory opinions, though statistically, some people must have agreed with both.

In this year’s legislative session, Florida politicians had similarly paradoxical results on both sides of the aisle. Democratic legislators were unable to pass bills making possession of assault weapons by everyday citizens a felony, while Republican-sponsored bills to allow concealed campus carry, concealed airport carry and open carry also fizzled.

But one major piece of gun-related legislation made it into Florida law. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill strengthening Stand Your Ground. The new version makes it easier than before for Floridians to claim this legal defense when using deadly force.

And this fits right in with those seemingly conflicting Gallup poll results – Americans want more collective restrictions on firearms, but they want more individual freedoms. Reconciling Americans’ opposing desires – to control others for their own good while retaining total liberty for ourselves – is the hard work of government. But striking that balance is the basis of our small-d democracy, and both constituents and legislators need to work harder to find a solution.