(CNN)In the wake of the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a new generation of teen activists emerged who insisted that the old boom/bust cycle of gun control politics in this country was no more.
Gone would be the public’s short attention span on the need for more restrictions on gun sales and gun ownership. And in its place would be a sustained campaign to keep the issues of guns — and the mass shootings committed with them — front and center in the public’s mind.Almost four years on from Parkland, however, a familiar cycle has asserted itself.Just 52% of Americans polled now say that the “laws covering the sales of firearms” should be stricter than they currently are, the lowest number that Gallup has measured on the question since 2014.Families of Parkland shooting victims settle lawsuit with Justice DepartmentThat marks a remarkable erosion on the question from just three years ago as the country was still reeling from the 17 people killed in Parkland. At that point, two thirds of respondents favored more strict gun laws. Read MoreIn 2019, there were still 64% of people who told Gallup they wanted stricter gun laws. That dropped to 57% in 2020 and now 52% in 2021.As Gallup noted in its release: “Americans’ support for stricter gun laws has typically risen in the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings and fallen during periods without such events. Changes in the party occupying the White House may also influence preferences for gun laws. Generally, the public favors stricter laws when Republicans are in office and less strict laws when Democrats are.” “Something about Parkland has been different,” Melissa Strassner, a survivor of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, told the New York Times in 2019. “They truly have inspired a nation.”There is no question there is some truth to that sentiment. Not only did support for stricter gun laws stay higher for more than a year following the Parkland shooting, state legislatures took unprecedented actions to limit guns. As Pew noted in 2018: “This was a year of unparalleled success for the gun-control movement in the United States. States across the country, including 14 with Republican governors, enacted 50 new laws restricting access to guns, ranging from banning bump stocks to allowing authorities to temporarily disarm potentially violent people.”But, at least at the federal level, legislative momentum has been harder to harness. Commemorating the three-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting this past February, President Joe Biden called on Congress to act.
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“I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets,” Biden said. “We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”While the Democratic-led House passed two measures to strengthen background checks, the Senate is not expected to act on either one.Meanwhile, Americans are buying more guns than ever before. In 2020, nearly 23 million guns were bought — a record. That surge has continued through 2021.And, there has been no letup in mass shootings either. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 638 mass shootings so far in 2021. (The site defines a mass shooting as one with 4 or more victims, either injured or killed, not including the gunman.)So, what happened? It appears that after an extended period of time in which the public was supportive of more strict gun laws, the old political rules of the gun debate have reasserted themselves.A new Quinnipiac poll also out this week finds registered voters split 47% to 48% between supporting stricter gun laws and opposing them. That’s also the lowest support for stricter gun laws among voters since late 2015 in Quinnipiac’s polling. In February 2018, it reached a high of 66% in their poll. A Pew Research poll back in April this year found a generally similar pattern.What Parkland did was keep the issue in the news — and on peoples’ minds — longer. But these latest numbers from Gallup suggest the issue has now begun to recede again.