In this post and one coming soon, I plan to write about our firearm background check system. This one will deal with public opinion. The next one will deal with how we got to this place historically and evidence that the system is not working as set up. I will write about how the system can improve to prevent people who can't handle guns responsibly from accessing guns in some venues.
During the course of my blog writing, I have seen pretty much every excuse for why we can't do anything about the carnage due to guns in this country. One of my favorites is that any polling data cannot be trusted if it comes from my side. Here is just the latest denial by the NRA as they are faced with yet one more survey showing strong support for gun control measures. One of these days, it may actually dawn on our politicians, who should make the rules rather than the guys with the guns, that the polls are right. They have been wrong to listen to the guys with the guns. The winds are shifting in our country. Just as with other issues, the extreme right is over reaching and calling attention to their extreme views on many issues. The NRA is guilty of this over reach by trying, and in some cases succeeding, to pass extreme laws to make sure that more people carry more guns in more places. Reason has taken a vacation in this country. Common sense has taken a hike.
I have posted about such proposed laws recently, including what I call "shoot first" laws, laws to allow guns on college campuses, open carry laws, laws to repeal local background checks, laws to name "state guns" , laws to allow more places for permit holders to carry their guns, etc. The gun lobby has had their way in many states ; sometimes reason wins and the laws are not passed.
For years now, poll after poll has shown support for reasonable gun laws. Here are a few:
1. Frank Luntz ( Republican pollster) polled only gun owners (Dec., 2009) and divided the groups into those who belong to the NRA and those who don't. Here are just some of his conclusions from the Mayors Against Illegal Guns website about the poll: " Among many results, the poll showed the following:
- NRA members and gun owners support sensible new measures to combat illegal guns, including closing the terror gap (82 percent NRA members support, 86 percent non- NRA gun owners support), closing the gun show loophole (69 percent / 85 percent), and requiring gun owners to report lost and stolen guns (78 percent / 88 percent); and
- NRA members and gun owners oppose policies they believe violate their rights, such as a national gun registry (59 percent NRA oppose, 42 percent non-NRA oppose)."
2. Another poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (January 18,2011) shows bi-partisan support for sensible gun laws. This poll used 2 firms who represent both the Democratic and Republican party. The results?
• 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of gun owners support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from.
• 89 percent of Americans and 85 percent of gun owners support a law to require background checks for all guns sold at gun shows.
3. And now, for the poll linked in the article above, also commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns- but, as the writer of the article points out, data came again, from 2 Republican polling firms and 2 Democratic polling firms and still the NRA is in denial. This latest poll, which I have written about before, surveyed people in 5 states- Colorado, Arizona, Indiana, Virginia, and Ohio, and came up with results similar to the other 2 polls. Here it is: " Polls were conducted in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia and Ohio. All the polls showed a similar pattern: requirements for reporting lost or stolen guns, requiring background checks for all purchases at gun shows, and preventing people on terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns all polled above 80 percent. On gun show background checks, 82 percent or more of respondents in each state supported requiring all sellers at gun shows to run background checks for all gun sales."
4. A Tarrance Group/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner April, 2008 poll, also commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns shows very similar answers to the question about requiring background checks for gun sales: 87% of non gun owners and 83% of gun owners favored the background checks. The Tarrance group is a Republican firm.
5. There is yet another poll reported by Tom Smith of the University of Chicago released in March of 2007. The results? "....80% favor criminal background checks for all sales of guns, including private sales between individuals". Now just to get it straight about this poll,: "The GSS is a full-probability sample of adults living in households in the United States using in-person interviews. For more details, see Davis, Smith, and Marsden, 2007. GSS gets its main funding from the National Science Foundation. The added questions on the regulation of firearms in 2006 were supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation. National Gun Policy Survey (NGPS), 2001: The NGPS is a random digit dialing sample of adults living in households with telephones. Sample size was 1,176 in 2001. For more details, see Smith, 2001. The NGPS was funded by the Joyce Foundation"
I know that the gun lobby does not trust the polling data from the Joyce Foundation or David Hemenway or Mayors Against Illegal Guns or the Brady Campaign. But when polling is this consistent and done by polling firms that are independent from their funders or by respected scholars in the field of public health, the data cannot be dismissed so summarily. I am disappointed that politicians have chosen to ignore the data because of the gun lobby which has the power and the influence in spite of public opinion. My disappointment also comes from seeing the numbers of victims add up every day, and most recently, on the side of a truck sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns on a national tour to highlight the problem of lax gun laws, most especially background check laws. On the side is a large number 34 to indicate the number of Americans killed every day in gun homicides. The other, smaller number, is a running total of the number of gun victims since the Tucson shootings. That is now 2034. Wherever the truck goes, victims are assembled to call attention to the flaws in current gun laws that can be fixed by closing the private seller loophole that allows the sale of guns without background checks to anyone who wishes to buy any type of gun. This does not make common sense to those of us working towards gun sensible gun control measures.
Below, is a visual to indicate support for expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. MAIG is Mayors Against Illegal Guns in the visual. The numbers are so consistent as to stand out as such. Watch for another post to continue this discussion.