On the heels of a recent Gallup Poll that found overwhelming opposition to a handgun ban, 73 percent of respondents oppose a ban on handguns, and less than half of Americans support stricter gun laws, 47 percent, I decided to reach out to folks on both sides of the gun divide for comment.
Not surprisingly, gun rights organizations took some stock in the poll while gun-control proponents played up its limitations as a means to gain public perception on whether gun laws regulating the sale of firearms should be made more stringent:
“The Gallup poll is misleading because most Americans don’t know where we’re starting from on this issue — they don’t know that background checks are not required and that its easier to buy a gun in this country than it is to buy prescription drugs.
“Those aren’t great polls to keep repeating because they don’t ask people about specific common-sense measures. When you ask about support for public safety measures like requiring background checks on all gun sales to prevent criminals, drug abusers, the mentally ill from getting guns – even NRA members and gun owners agree in strong majorities.
“In fact, 82% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members support requiring a criminal background check of anyone buying a gun.
Gun owners, like the general public, believe that gun laws are stronger than they are – over half of non-NRA members and 57% of NRA members believe the statement: ‘Everyone who wants to buy a gun has to pass a background check to complete the purchase.’ They’re wrong.”
–Erika Soto Lamb, Communications Director for Everytown for Gun Safety.
“I think those numbers, to some degree, reflect the fact that many Americans assume our gun laws are far stricter than they actually are.
“As someone who speaks to groups of Americans on this issue on a regular basis (with an age range spanning from high school students to Elder Hostel travelers), I can tell you that folks are constantly surprised to find out what laws we have on the books in this country—and don’t.
“Part of that is lack of education about these laws (which most folks don’t encounter on a daily basis, if at all), while another part is certainly propaganda emanating not just from the NRA, but also from more broadly watched outlets such as Fox News.
“That’s why when you poll folks about specific policy proposals (i.e., “Do you support background checks on all gun sales in America?”) you tend to get far different results, and far larger margins of support for stricter regulation.”
–Ladd Everitt, Communications Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
“Laws restricting gun rights do nothing to stop a criminal with evil intent and make defending oneself impossible in criminal safe zones. Americans are realizing they are in charge of their own safety, and big brother government restricting their Second Amendment rights is not the answer.”
–Dudley Brown, President of the National Association for Gun Rights.
“An informed public is the key to protecting our Second Amendment rights. As the NRA fights to counter the lies pushed by gun control activists like billionaire Michael Bloomberg, we see increasing support from the public for gun rights, but we still have much work to do. In particular, we need to fight Bloomberg’s push for so-called universal background checks on gun sales and other transfers. We need to continue reminding the American people that serious criminals get guns by theft, on the black market, or from surrogate purchasers who can pass background checks. Furthermore, there is no doubt the real agenda of gun control activists is to morph the background check system into a registry of gun sales and, over time, gun owners. In fact, legislation has already been introduced in Congress to take the next step toward a national registry: permanent retention of the records of approved NICS checks by the FBI.”
–Catherine Mortensen, NRA Spokesperson.
From my perspective, I think the poll is pretty accurate. I think the American public is informed enough about the inefficacy of gun-control policies to oppose efforts to further restrict laws covering the sales of firearms. I also think the public is beginning to see how expanding gun rights, like ‘shall-issue’ concealed carry laws, is having a positive impact in that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens has the potential to lower crime rates. Since, more guns appears to reduce crime so it doesn’t make sense to inhibit one’s right to defend oneself, one’s family and one’s property, hence the lack of support for tougher gun laws.
To address the concerns raised by Erika and Ladd, I’d simply argue that one can turn their argument on its head by getting even more specific about background check questioning. For example: Do you support background checks on all gun sales, even those made between extended family members, neighbors, friends? Do you believe every gun transfer should be taxed? After all, gun shop owners or FFLs charge a fee for every transfer, which is tantamount to a tax on the Second Amendment. Do you believe criminals follow the law and would be deterred from obtaining a firearm due to a background check?
Answers to those questions would be telling, and would give us true insight as to whether the public actually supports the universal background check mandate.