As Congress appears poised to pass the first major gun legislation in a generation, swing voters in Arizona remain doubtful it will have much impact on preventing gun violence.
The proposed law, penned by a bipartisan group of 10 Republican and 10 Democratic senators, includes funding for mental health resources, boosting school safety, providing grants for states to implement so-called “red flag laws” that allow authorities to confiscate guns from people deemed to be dangerous, enhanced protections for victims of domestic abuse, and expanding the nation’s background check system to include juvenile records for any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21.
According to a recent ABC News/IPSOS poll, approximately 70% of Americans say enacting some form of gun legislation should be a high priority, but the support of gun control varies drastically between political parties. On paper, 75% of Independents see gun control as a high priority, but views on guns still vary widely among this crucial voting bloc.
When we conducted a pair of focus groups on June 13 with 13 Maricopa County-based Trump-to-Biden voters, one question stood out: Will this plan, if signed into law, make a meaningful difference in reducing gun violence in America?
If these persuadable voters’ expectations are any indication, this plan will fail to meet that objective.
Jonas, 52, from Phoenix, commented, “Criminals can get guns no matter what laws there are. They’re getting guns now. You can put all the laws on the books. Criminals are going to get guns.”
“It just sounds like they’re addressing more of people’s mental health and people’s psyche,” explained Ryne, 30, from Phoenix. “They’re addressing people’s brain and thought patterns more than they’re addressing the fact of you’ve got a million lost guns on the street. You’ve got ghost guns. And you’ve got these automatic reloads and whatever else. You’ve got to take care of the problem at the source. These laws will probably stop gun violence in a couple generations but not today or not tomorrow.”
“There’s no fundamental change to any major law that would prevent somebody from going out there, buying a gun, and doing exactly what they’re going to do,” remarked Jerry, 58, from Cave Creek.
Chaunsy, 47, from Goodyear, added, “That [framework for the law] that they put out has nothing to do with any of the shootings. It wouldn’t prevent none of the shootings that just happened…I’m originally from Chicago. Chicago has some of the strongest laws to get a gun permit. It’s one of the craziest places to live because there are guns everywhere.”
The most encouraging comment about the proposed law came from David, 40, from Mesa, who opined, “It’s a step in the right direction. You’ve got to start somewhere. Mental health is clearly an issue, right? If you can help with the mental health, help with some of the tangential things, that’s a step in the right direction. I don’t know that it would really move the needle, but it might change the conversation and move towards something that might be more helpful.”
With this type of lukewarm feedback, it wasn’t entirely surprising only six of 13 swing voters would like to see Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema vote for it.
Courtney, 31, from Peoria, explained, “I think if they vote for this, then they can check that box and say that they’ve done what they need to do, but I feel like it’s not going to be as effective as addressing the issue, like we said. I think it’s more of a waste of time.”
While Democrats and Republicans intending to vote for the law will no doubt tout it in campaign ads if they are running for re-election this year, they should be careful to note that it’s unlikely to sway these persuadable voters one way or the other.