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No, 90% Don’t Want More Background Checks

Gun control advocates like President Obama keep claiming that 80 to 90 percent of Americans are in favor of expanded background check legislation. Only, it’s not true.

Liberal fact checkers were less than thrilled with any objections to this false orthodoxy. PolitiFact’s Lauren Carroll cites a series of polls from Quinnipiac University, CBS/New York Times, Gallup and others to buttress claims the figure is on target.

But these polls really ask little more than whether people want to stop criminals from obtaining guns. They don’t ask whether voters favor actual legislation that would actually impose background checks on the private transfer of guns.

Somehow, Carroll managed to avoid any of the polls that were done on specific legislation. Take an April 2013 Pew Research Center poll [1], which asked voters whether they were happy that the U.S. Senate had voted down legislation on background checks for private gun transfers. While 67 percent of Democrats were “disappointed” or “angry” about the defeat, both Republicans (51 percent to 34 percent) and independents (48 to 41) were generally happy that it had been stopped.

A Reason-Rupe poll [2] also came out in the aftermath of the bill’s defeat. It found that Americans, by a margin of 62-33, wanted Congress to move on to other issues rather than immediately trying again to pass the bill.

But don’t just look at the polls. In Washington state, gun control advocates were able to write up their own initiative and put it on the ballot. With a 50-to-1 spending advantage  — $9.5 million versus a couple hundred thousand [3] — the initiative passed with just 59 percent of the vote. Even in a liberal state, and with a massive spending campaign, the referendum fell 31 percentage points short of the claimed 90 percent support.

So who are they targeting with the phony stats? See the excerpt from a speech by NRA President Wayne LaPierre at CPAC in 2013 addressing background checks below:

[lz_third_party includes=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxytQfpxniA]

With Obama turning his central focus to expanded background checks on private transfers of guns, a new CNN/ORC poll shows that Americans disapprove of Obama’s views on guns by a 53 to 43 percent margin [4].

Those with first-hand knowledge of the battle against crime are skeptical of Obama’s agenda. In 2013, PoliceOne surveyed active duty and retired police officers about expanded background checks. Of the 15,000 who responded, only 31 percent thought that these checks would reduce the incidence of mass shootings.

The costs of these background checks are rarely considered. Checks on private transfers add about $80 to the cost of transferring a gun in New York, up to $60 in Washington State, and $125 in Washington, D.C. [5] These fees can put guns out of the reach of those who are the most likely victims of violent crimes: poor people living in high-crime, urban areas. If gun-control advocates care more about passing universal background checks than about who pays for them, they should be willing to fund the checks through tax revenue. But, of course, they are happy to throw yet another obstacle in the way of prospective gun owners.

Nor does the media discuss how much of a mess the current federal background-check system is. Virtually everyone [6] who fails a background check is actually legally eligible to buy a gun.

Instituting checks on private transfers means creating much more thorough records of who owns a gun. All gun sales and transfers will go through federally licensed dealers, and those dealers must keep records of who gets a gun. A future presidential administration could very well pass a law requiring that these records be turned over to the federal government.

If these problems with background checks were widely discussed in the mainstream media, it is doubtful that universal background check bills would enjoy anywhere near the support they get. The actual laws put forward have nowhere near the majority support that gun control advocates claim they do.

John R. Lott, Jr., is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center [7] and the author of ‘More Guns, Less Crime [8]‘ (University of Chicago Press, 2010, 3rd edition).