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Poll Shocker: “Overwhelming” Support for More Background Checks is Actually Rather Underwhelming

Friday, July 28, 2017

Poll Shocker: “Overwhelming” Support for More Background Checks is Actually Rather Underwhelming

Lacking evidence that gun control restrictions reduce crime or enhance public safety, proponents of such measures seek to justify them by misleading messages, misciting statistics, or pointing to a “groundswell” of popular support, alleging that an overwhelming majority of the general public/gun owners/NRA members/Green Party voters support whatever new restriction it is that’s being proposed. 

One such “faux-tistic” is the claim that 40 percent of firearms sales occur without a background check. Despite this figure having been consistently discredited, it continues to show up in gun control arguments even after the researchers whose study was used as the basis of the claim  rejected it as outdated and unreliable.  

Another mainstay of gun control scripts (Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown, the Brady Campaign, and others) is that over 90 percent of Americans, including the vast majority of gun owners, support background checks for all gun sales. 

Reality tells us a different story. 

More than a year ago, the Commonwealth of Virginia enacted a law authorizing voluntary background checks for private gun sales at gun shows. Under the law, State Police officers must be available at every gun show to conduct background checks upon request for private transactions. The police may charge a “reasonable fee” for conducting these checks; in addition, approximately $300,000 in public funding was approved for the purposes of implementing this program. 

Virginians have seen little in the way of results for the expenditure of these substantial public resources.

Since the law was passed, with 77 gun shows across the state, only 54 voluntary background checks in total were requested, most of which occurred within the first six months the law was in effect. Only a single person was denied (apparently due to an outstanding felony arrest warrant) and even this came to nothing: the news reports indicate there were no criminal charges resulting from the denied purchase. In contrast, federally licensed dealers at these shows performed close to 40,000 background checks.  

One may suppose that cost was a prohibiting factor, but the fee for the private background check was a modest two dollars. A more plausible explanation for the shortfall between the touted support for enhanced background checks and what actually happened is that the support just isn’t there.      

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) explored this possibility in its own poll, which asked a more nuanced question. This first explained that most gun show sales involve licensed dealers who are already required to conduct background checks under federal law, and then asked whether the person agreed or disagreed that additional laws, including enhanced background checks, were necessary for gun show sales. 

When the issue was presented in context, the support for increased background checks was less than half of what is claimed by various gun control groups, and nowhere near an overwhelming majority of those polled. The majority (53 percent) of those taking part in the NSSF survey agreed that more restrictions were not necessary.  These results are further bolstered by results at the ballot box, where restrictive background check laws have seen nowhere near the 90 percent support claimed by gun control supporters.  Despite spending many millions of dollars on background check campaigns in Maine and Nevada last year, Bloomberg’s Everytown not only failed to approach their claimed 90 percent support, their measure was defeated in Maine and succeeded on the narrowest of margins in Nevada only to later be found unenforceable by the FBI and Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.     

Anti-gun groups have claimed for years that their “research” shows their so-called “common sense gun safety laws” will reduce violent crime, that expanding right-to-carry laws will lead to someplace called the “Wild, Wild West,” and that gun shows are a major source of guns for criminals and other prohibited persons. When the same disingenuous gun control groups point to the “overwhelming support” for increased restrictions and bans, and use this to dismiss the NRA’s opposition to their proposals as somehow out of touch with mainstream America, it’s obvious an “overwhelming” dose of skepticism is called for. 

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Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Supreme Court Signals It May Rein In Federal Rulemakers

News  

Monday, August 8, 2022

Supreme Court Signals It May Rein In Federal Rulemakers

While most of the attention from the end of the United States Supreme Court’s last term focused on several landmark cases, including a major win for gun owners in the NRA-supported case New York State Rifle ...

California Using Tax Dollars to Racially Profile Gun Owners

News  

Monday, August 15, 2022

California Using Tax Dollars to Racially Profile Gun Owners

California gun owners have been under siege for the past year - even by the not-so-Golden State’s standards. In September 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB-173, which allows for the disclosure of highly sensitive ...

Oregon: Faulty Gun Control Ballot Measure Summary Approved

Friday, August 12, 2022

Oregon: Faulty Gun Control Ballot Measure Summary Approved

This week, the Explanatory Statement Committee approved Ballot Measure 114’s (formerly IP 17) summary that will appear in the voter pamphlet.

California: Appropriations Committees Pass Anti-Gun Bills to Floor

Friday, August 12, 2022

California: Appropriations Committees Pass Anti-Gun Bills to Floor

Yesterday, the Appropriations Committees of both chambers considered bills previously placed on the suspense file. SB 505, which would have required gun owners to carry insurance and held them strictly civilly liable, was held in committee, while the ...

When Seconds Count, the Police are Only Hours Away

News  

Monday, August 8, 2022

When Seconds Count, the Police are Only Hours Away

After violent unrest and looting in 2020 that Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot admitted had “spread like wildfire” throughout parts of Chicago, the mayor nonetheless “urged Chicagoans not to take matters into their own hands in this concealed ...

Another Good Guy with a Gun Stops the Bad Guy

News  

Monday, July 25, 2022

Another Good Guy with a Gun Stops the Bad Guy

On July 19, 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken was shopping with his girlfriend at the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Ind. when a gunman armed with a rifle opened fire in the food court. Upon witnessing the ...

Canada’s Liberals Bypass Parliament to Further Gun Control Agenda

News  

Monday, August 15, 2022

Canada’s Liberals Bypass Parliament to Further Gun Control Agenda

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced Bill C-21, proposing a permanent freeze on the sale, transfer and import of handguns in Canada. The bill remains at the initial stages and did not pass prior to ...

House-Passed Gun Ban Shows the Importance of the Election This November

News  

Monday, August 1, 2022

House-Passed Gun Ban Shows the Importance of the Election This November

On Friday, after a last-minute rule change to allow its consideration, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1808.

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

News  

Friday, April 1, 2022

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

Half the country will now enjoy the freedom to carry a handgun for self-defense without a permit from the state thanks to the tireless efforts of men and women of the National Rifle Association. 

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NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.