Supporters of gun control laws outnumber critics of such laws, but only marginally. Gun rights supporters have far more intensity though, and that translates into a solid edge in political contests. In other words, these are the people that actually show up to fight.
That was the finding of an analysis the Pew Research Center posted Wednesday. The data helps to explain a hard-fought Colorado recall election that resulted in two Democratic state lawmakers, who voted for gun control measures, losing their seats. The recall suggests that any momentum for gun control in the wake of the Newtown tragedy has faded away.
Pew noted that support for gun control legislation has never exceeded opposition by more that 5 percentage points in the 12 years the center has been polling the question. In its most recent survey, the split was 50-48 percent in favor of new laws. That margin isn't enough to overcome the intensity of support by the gun rights folks.
While 41 percent of gun rights supporters said they wouldn’t vote for a candidate based solely on his or her gun policy, only 31 percent of gun control supporters said the same thing. Similarly, while 45 percent of gun rights supporters had engaged in some form of political activity on behalf of their cause --- such as contributing money or contacting an elected official --- only 26 percent of gun control supporters had done the same.
This intensity is especially important in off-year or other low-turnout elections. In democratic politics, an organized minority will typically beat a disorganized majority.