(AP/Alex Brandon)

Republicans, guns and terrorism: Is the disconnect disingenuous or nuanced?

GOP prefers the government to protect their rights on guns, but on terrorism, they're willing to sacrifice liberties


Taylor Link
October 5, 2017 4:52PM (UTC)

In the aftermath of each mass shooting, the debate over gun control only becomes more pronounced, revealing a polarized America on the issue. One side wants sensible gun regulations, while the other wants the government to stay out of it. But the most recent national polls show that the Republican point of view is a bit more nuanced, and perhaps even insincere.

According to Pew Research Center surveys collected by FiveThirtyEight, most Republicans believe that the government should prioritize stopping terrorism over the protection of civil liberties. But when it comes to guns, Republicans want the government to focus on protecting gun ownership rather than controlling it.

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In April 2017 the Pew Research Center asked Americans whether the government should protect gun ownership or limit gun access. Only 22 percent of Democratic respondents indicated that the government should protect gun ownership rights. A small percentage compared to 76 percent of Republicans who wanted their gun rights protected.

This 54-point gap is not exactly surprising. Surveys show that Republicans are more likely to own guns, so it is only reason that more of them would prefer to have their ownership rights secured. For many Republicans, the Second Amendment is sacred and is considered as important of a civil liberty as the First Amendment.

But that's what makes the following poll question so baffling. In 2016 the Pew Research Center asked if America's anti-terrorism policies had gone too far in restricting civil liberties, or, vice versa, not gone far enough to safeguard the country. An astounding 68 percent of Republicans said that the U.S. had not gone far enough in protecting against terrorism, suggesting that they were willing to sacrifice their civil liberties for security purposes.

These two poll questions reveal the cognitive dissonance of the Republican Party. It is safe to assume that when many Republicans read or hear the word "terrorism" they immediately think of Muslims. Republicans apparently have no qualms with restricting the civil liberties of Muslims if it ensures the safety of the rest of the country. But Republicans conveniently ignore white terrorists such as Dylann Roof and Robert Lewis Dear, the perpetrator of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting.

And it explains why the right-wing media instantly went on the attack following the Las Vegas shooting. Conservative pundits pointed their fingers at Democrats, CNN, national anthem protests and ISIS all to distract from the fact that America has a gun problem. In the eyes of some Republicans, civil liberties only apply to them and any attempt to regulate the Second Amendment is a personal attack.

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Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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