Quinnipiac University released its latest poll on the hot button issue of gun control this morning, but the survey of 1,446 registered voters nationwide say they favor "requiring background checks for all gun buyers" by a wide margin. American voters overwhelmingly support background checks on gun purchases, 92 – 7 percent. That number includes 92 – 6 percent among gun owners. While there is s slight drop by political affiliation, it is a small drop. Support ranges from 86 – 11 percent among Republicans to 98 – 2 percent among Democrats.
On another issue with broad consensus, there is also overwhelming support. Voters also support 89 – 9 percent laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns. Gun owners support this idea 91 – 7 percent. The survey is a confirmation of previous findings in the same range, such as this recent poll commissioned by Politico. Another prominent pollster also confirms the number.
In spite of this overwhelming support for background checks, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has taken a hardened stand against background checks. Last year Republicans killed a background check bill in the United States Senate, under tremendous pressure for the NRA.
The timing of the Quinnipiac University poll comes the same week as the release of a 66-page report by Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL). The report titled "The 2014 Kelly Report on Gun Violence in America," and also known as the "Kelly Report," is the first-ever Congressional analysis of the nation’s gun violence epidemic that offers a blueprint for ending the violence with guns crisis in America.
Gun reform advocates in Chicago at the Dirksen Federal Building asked Congresswoman Robin Kelly a press conference attended this past week. Fox News 32 political reporter Mike Flannery asked Kelly if she is deterred by the obvious political realities of Republican obstructionism in the U.S. Senate and the House.
Kelly answered that she is not "giving up" and is not "deterred" by House Republican obstructionism. "This is a fight worth fighting." Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped forward and pointed out that while in the Clinton White House, the opposition to the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons ban was stiff. Yet, Emanuel pointed out that both bills passed.
In fact, the question of background checks is a centerpiece of the "Kelly Report." The report praises the background check. "Twenty years ago, President Clinton signed the 'Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act,' a law that, to date has stopped more than 2.1 million gun sales to dangerous people by requiring background checks."
"Still, more can be done," argues the Kelly Report. "The background checks required under the Brady Act only apply to gun sales by those 'in the business' of selling firearms. Private arms dealers are not required to conduct background checks. This gap in the legislation, originally known as the 'gun show loophole,' has been exacerbated by the rise of internet gun sales."
The Kelly Report cites the 2012 death of Zina Daniel of Brookfield. Zina had obtained a restraining order against her ex-husband, Radcliffe Haughton. Despite federal law that prohibited Radcliffe from purchasing a firearm because of his record, he was able to purchase one online from a private seller without undergoing a background check. Radcliffe later killed Zina and two other women; injuring four more before taking his own life in a heartbreakingly preventable scenario that plays out far too often in this country.
A background could have saved the lives of the three women, and prevented four others from their injuries.
Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, credits the Brady Bill with saving lives. "We knew that Brady background checks would save lives. And we now have 20 years of proof that Brady background checks work." Gross argues more needs to be done.
"Federal law allows unlicensed persons to sell guns without a background check, no questions asked," says Gross. "To avoid background checks in today’s world, convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers now buy weapons from unlicensed sellers at gun shows and through Internet websites, like Armslist. com."
As far a public opinion, it is all a matter of the wording and semantics. The Quinnipiac University poll points out that when the question is asked in a nuanced way, only 50 percent of voters support "stricter gun control laws," with 47 percent opposed. The question asked there was "Do you support or oppose stricter gun control laws in the United States?"
"Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "But when it comes to 'stricter gun control,' three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say 'hands off.'"
From June 24 – 30, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,446 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.
The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado and the nation as a public service and for research.