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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up in gun control arguments even after the researchers whose study was used as the basis of the claim  rejected it as outdated and unreliable.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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Friday, October 11, 2019

California: Governor Newsom Signs Anti-Gun Bills into Law

Earlier today, Governor Newsom signed the seven anti-gun bills listed below into law.  

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Monday, October 14, 2019

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Number of Concealed Carry Permit Holders Increased Again

Last week, economist John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center released “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2019,” his annual report on the number of concealed carry permit holders in the U.S.

Member Spotlight: Meet the Police Officer Who Told Congress She ‘Would Not Comply' with a Gun Ban

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Friday, October 4, 2019

Member Spotlight: Meet the Police Officer Who Told Congress She ‘Would Not Comply' with a Gun Ban

Last week, a retired Tulsa, Oklahoma law enforcement officer testified in a Congressional hearing that she “would not comply” if Congress passes a ban on firearms. Her bold assertion earned her national media attention and ...

Virginia’s Anti-gun Politicians Put Politics Before Fighting Gun Crime

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Virginia’s Anti-gun Politicians Put Politics Before Fighting Gun Crime

Virginia’s anti-gun politicians are serious about attacking law-abiding gun owners, but are indifferent about actual gun crime. As highlighted in a recent report in the Washington Free Beacon by Stephen Gutowski, the Virginia Department of Justice Services ...

Virginia Police Chief Advocates Ban on All Guns at U.S. House “Assault Weapons” Hearing

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Friday, September 27, 2019

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Kamala Harris and Her Perplexing Anti-Gun Ideas

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Friday, August 2, 2019

Kamala Harris and Her Perplexing Anti-Gun Ideas

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), one of the two-dozen Democrat presidential hopefuls vying to take on President Donald Trump in 2020, has been promoting her anti-gun platform for many months. This isn’t really news, as ...

Grassroots Spotlight: NRA-ILA Fighting the Bloomberg Money In Virginia 2019 Elections

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

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Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

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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.

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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.