Virginia Tech. Tuscon. Aurora. Milwaukee. Now, Newtown.

As Reid Wilson writes in his column today, these incidents of mass and public tragedy renew conversation on gun control. But talk is largely all there is.

Wilson writes:

Obama has been given several sad opportunities to address gun violence. In Tucson, he spoke of "a national conversation" commencing.... After an attack on a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, Obama said similar events "are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence."

But that soul-searching did not happen in Obama's first term.

But it isn't just policy that remains stagnant; it's public perception of guns as well. The chart above, released in July from the Pew Research Center, shows that before and after the tragedies in Virgina, Arizona, and Colorado, public perception of guns and gun rights did not change to a significant degree.

What also is clear from the Pew report is that Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on gun-control issues. Republicans "prioritize gun rights by a 71 percent to 26 percent margin, while Democrats prioritize gun control by a 72 percent to 21 percent margin."

Other stats:

  • Two-thirds of Americans say that mass shootings are "isolated acts of troubled individuals," while one-fourth say they reflect broader problems in society.
  • Support for gun control has fallen in recent years. In 2000, 66 percent of Americans thought it was more important to control guns than to protect the Second Amendment. In 2012, 47 percent of Americans thought so.

Read more at Pew.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.