Back in July, I had a couple of posts on gun control. Unfortunately, recent events brought the issue back to mind. Since 1980, the Gallup Poll has asked the following question (with minor variations): "Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns except by the police and other authorized persons?" Between 1959 and 1979, they asked the same question about "pistols and revolvers." Here is a figure showing changes over the whole period:
There has been a large decline in support for a handgun ban over the period. Looking more closely, support seems to have fallen rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s (although the question was asked only a few times, so it's hard to be sure), then more slowly until about 2000, and the more rapidly again. The sustained decline in support supports Ross Douthat's claim, mentioned in my earlier post, that it reflects a more general shift in values. I'm not convinced by his idea of "individualism" as the source, but I don't have a good alternative at the moment.