Pew Research has released a poll taken in the middle of 2016. Note that the Orlando night club massacre and the massive media hype calling for a ban on “assault weapons” occurred one third of the way through the survey period for police. The shooting of five police officers in Dallas, with a rifle occurred half way through the survey period.
The public survey was conducted two months after the Orlando Pulse shooting, at the height of the establishment media demonization of “assault weapons”, and one month after the shooting of five officers in Dallas.
The poll is more correctly a poll of urban police officers than of all police officers. Rural and small town police officers were excluded from the poll. Those officers make up 37% of the officers in police and sheriff's departments in the country. Even the urban officers strongly favored the right to arms. From pewsocialtrends.org:
Police officers are considerably more likely than the general public to say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns than it is to control gun ownership (74% of officers vs. 53% of the public).
Both urban police and the public expressed support of a national database to track gun sales. Precisely what is meant by that is left to the readers imagination. The public portion of this poll was taken at the height of establishment media propaganda for more restrictions on guns after the Orlando Pulse shooting.
A majority of police and a larger share of the public also support the creation of a federal database to track gun sales (61% and 71%, respectively).
There is an enormous split between urban police attitudes about banning “assault style” (whatever that means) weapons, and the public attitude. Again, these surveys were taken, for the most part, shortly after the Orlando Pulse shooting.
However, the consensus on guns vanishes when the focus turns to assault-style weapons. About two-thirds of Americans (64%) but only about a third of police (32%) favor outlawing assault weapons.
This is not surprising. Urban police almost never encounter semi-automatic rifles in the course of their duties. They know that overall, rifles, such as the many AR15 variants and various AK type variants, are extremely rare in crime. Many officers, even urban officers, are familiar with these type of rifles and have qualified with them.
That cannot be said for the general public. The public survey was taken exclusively after the Orlando Pulse massacre and the media driven propaganda aimed at banning “assault weapons”.
After the Orlando shooting the term “assault weapon” was conflated with AR and AK variants. This is why Pew asked about “assault-style” weapons rather than “assault weapons” or “assault rifles”. “Assault weapons” is a specific legal term that includes many handguns and shotguns, including most magazines used by police in their handguns. “Assault rifles” is a specific technical term that excludes nearly all AR and AK variants in the United States. “Assault style” is vague enough to include the rifle used in the Orlando shooting.
If we have discovered anything about attitudes toward the Second Amendment and public ownership of firearms, it is that there is an enormous gulf between rural and small town America and urban America. Yet, the sample was deliberately and heavily weighted toward large, urban police and sheriff's departments, ignoring officers in small town and rural departments. From pewsocialtrends.org:
The main survey is an online poll of a nationally representative sample of 7,917 officers working in 54 police and sheriff’s departments with 100 or more sworn officers. (Some 63% of all sworn officers work in departments of this size.)
The first sentence in the quote above is not true. The survey is *not* a nationally representative sample. The survey ignored rural and small town America, where about 37% of American police officers(pdf) live and work. It heavily weighted the poll toward large urban departments where about 25% of American police officers live. Included in the poll, but given less representation, were urban police officers in cities of 100,000 to 500,000.
The sample was taken from the largest 5% of police and sheriff's departments. Of approximately 15,400 departments, half have less than 10 officers.
The departments sampled averaged over 1,000 officers per department.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (pdf 2013 data), there are only 49 departments in the entire United States that have more than 1,000 sworn officers.
It is easy to understand why small departments were not sampled. It is simply harder to do. Instead of obtaining cooperation with one police chief, cooperation with 20 is required. This selection bias skews the sample significantly.
It is almost certain the percentage of police with positive attitudes toward the Second Amendment would have been higher if rural and small town America officers had been included in the sample.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.