By now you’ve seen the claim countless times. According to gun control advocates and their media lapdogs, some 90-percent of Americans support the criminalization of private firearm transfers – misleadingly termed by its proponents as “universal background checks.” In a rare instance of journalistic integrity, the New York Times has published an article debunking this bogus gun control talking point.
Titled, “Voters Say They Want Gun Control. Their Votes Say Something Different,” the June 3 article by Nate Cohn explains that while some polling may show significant support for the criminalization of private transfers, voter behavior makes clear that Americans are divided on the policy. Cohn begins,
It’s one of the most puzzling questions for Democrats in American politics: Why is the political system so unresponsive to gun violence? Expanded background checks routinely receive more than 80 percent or 90 percent support in polling. Yet gun control legislation usually gets stymied in Washington and Republicans never seem to pay a political price for their opposition.
After listing some of the usual explanations for this reality, Cohn notes, “But there’s another possibility, one that might be the most sobering of all for gun control supporters: Their problem could also be the voters, not just politicians or special interests.”
The author then proceeds to point out that in every instance where so-called “universal background checks” appeared on the ballot, the policy wildly underperformed expectations based on polling.
For instance, based on survey data, 86-percent of Nevadans supposedly supported the criminalization of private transfers. However, when Nevadans went to the polls in 2016 to vote on the policy, the measure barely passed with 50.45-percent of the vote.
A similar story played out in Maine. According to the New York Times item, 83-percent of Mainers were expected to support a background check ballot measure in 2016. On election day Maine residents voted the policy down, with 52-percent opposing the measure. Even in deep blue states like Washington and California, private transfer ballot measures have underperformed expectations by about 20-30 percent.
Cohn goes on to point out,
The usual theories for America’s conservative gun politics do not explain the poor showings. The supporters of the initiatives outspent the all-powerful gun lobby. All manner of voters, not just single-issue voters or politicians, got an equal say. The Senate was not to blame; indeed, the results suggested that a national referendum on background checks would have lost.
This isn’t the first instance where the New York Times has attempted to bring some much-needed reality to the gun control debate. In 2018, the New York Times published a piece titled, “Support for Gun Control Seems Strong. But It May Be Softer Than It Looks.”
The author of that piece, Margot Sanger-Katz, noted, “While a wide range of gun control laws appear popular in polls, support may soften once details emerge and they’re subjected to a robust political debate.” Addressing the Maine anti-gun initiative, Sanger-Katz wrote,
David Farmer, who led the Maine effort for universal background checks in 2016, said that supporters of gun rights can be particularly persuasive once a concrete proposal is unveiled. In Maine, polling support for the measure declined between introduction and the final vote, before failing, 52-48.
This suggests that as ignorance recedes, so does support for gun control.
Despite the New York Times and NRA-ILA’s attempts to educate the public on this topic, much of the mainstream press continues to parrot the gun control activist line on background check support. Even so-called “fact checkers” assiduously dismiss the actual votes cast for and against this policy in favor of the debunked polling.
Mere ignorance plays a large role in inaccurate reporting on gun issues. However, given most of the mainstream media’s continued intransigence on this topic in the face of overwhelming data, those who continue to claim there is near-universal support for criminalizing private firearm transfers reveal themselves to be unprincipled political activists rather than journalists.