Untangling the Spin: Polling on Background Checks Highly Misleading

Throughout the ongoing gun control debate, polls citing overwhelming support for expanded background checks have been the norm.  Today’s ABC News/Washington Post poll was no different:

With a vote on gun control measures pending, 86 percent support extending background checks to gun sales at gun shows and online.  … Notably, though, even among gun owners and those who think guns make a home safer, 86 and 82 percent, respectively, support expanded background checks.

Sounds convincing, doesn’t it?

President Obama sure thinks so.  Last week, he urged Americans to “find out where your member of Congress stands on this.  If they’re not part of the 90 percent of Americans who agree on background checks, then ask them, why not?”

The real question is what do YOU mean by “background checks” Mr. President?

Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background check to borrow a friend’s hunting rifle?  In the original Reid bill (which was the pending bill when Pres. Obama issued his call to action), borrowing a friend’s hunting rifle without a background check would be a felony.

Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background check to buy a firearm advertised on the local church bulletin board?  The Schumer-Toomy-Manchin Amendment would require such a check.

Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background check if it cost law-abiding gun owners $125?  According to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment would “charge a $30 to $50 and up to a $125 fee, creating a new de facto tax on guns.”

Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of expanded background checks if it weakens mental health privacy laws?  According to Heritage, the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment “reduces existing privacy protection for mental health records relevant to background checks.”

These are the questions the polls do not ask, but these are the questions that matter to law-abiding Americans.  And on the questions that matter, 90 percent isn’t 90 percent.

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63 thoughts on “Untangling the Spin: Polling on Background Checks Highly Misleading

  1. How about this hypothetical: Suppose Jared Loughfner or Adam Lanza (or any number of mentally ill within the population) wanted to buy a firearm “advertised on the local church bulletin board”? I definitely would want them to undergo a background check. The minuscule inconvenience “suffered” by the outraged gun extremists is pathetically insignificant and irrelevant. If I’m not mistaken, people of your ilk also want the lifting of all restrictions on fully-auto weapon. Sane?

    • so the angry man who couldnt buy a shotgun to go bird hunting with his Pastor, in frustration drives a pickup into a schoolyard. whats the diff. you need to stop name calling and get back to family values. the dad or uncle, even older brothers and cousins should get involved. that not your control policy, but having everything put into your permanent record has a negative effect on model behavior.

    • And they would have passed as they had no prior history of doing anything wrong. background checks are actually worthless. And 99% of legal guns are never used in crime. Think about that staggering factoid for a second. We are making more laws to burden a shocking number of people that are the safest around. That makes no sense.

    • Ass-wipe Adam Lanza didn’t get his firearms from a church bulletin board! These gun laws are a joke, logically all they do is make “people of your ilk” feel better, and punish the law abiding people of the other ilk. They *won’t* *stop* *any* *of* *these* *atrocities*. Sane?

    • Yo, Lassie, if you don’t trust me with a fully automatic weapon such as an M-4 (military variant of the AR-15), please explain, using logic and rationale, how you get to a place where you would trust me with and M-4 without the automatic capability. How do you quake and tremble in diarrhea inducing fear at the thought of me with a 30 round magazine but a 10 round magazine is,”Eh, no problem.”?

    • Jared Loughner DID pass a background check to buy his firearm.
      Adam Lanza didn’t undergo a background check because he murdered his mother to get to her firearms. A background check isn’t required to do that.

    • It’s already against the law to sell a firearm to someone who is not allowed to own one. More than 99% of the guns used in crime are stolen, obtained on the street, or through the black market. So-called “Universal Background Checks” will have virtually no effect on those.
      The DOJ has admitted that UBC are meaningless without a national gun registry, and many “gun safety” proponents have implied or admitted openly that UBC is “just the first step” toward confiscation of all guns.

  2. I am afraid that the great unspoken root cause of a lot ot this mental illness in the US is a result of broken families raising broken children. Time wasted on gun control debates will not heal our broken children. I propose a license to get married and a more stringent license to have kids. It has become obvious that many people dont want and should not have children. Fatherless children for example have a much higher rate of alcohol, drug use and mental illness than do children raised by two parent families.

    • You make a good point. Don’t forget to add in how many kids are medicated with anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs.

      Too bad we can’t get anyone in Congress to look at the strong correlation between psychotropic drugs and mass killings.

      • They don’t want that, I would suspect that way more Dems are on those drugs than the rest of the ‘sane’ people. Sen Grassley has been pushing the drug correlation to no avail, although the V.A. has been instructed to take the guns of vets that area on any psychotropic drugs.

    • Are you being serious about requiring a license to have kids? Who would issue such a license and what would the penalty be for unlicensed births?

      I object strongly to needing to ask permission to have a child. Sounds like something the communists would do.

  3. Why not poll “are you in favor of stopping Americans from being shot dead with guns: yes or no?” I suspect that too would be above 90% “yes”. Then ask “should your wife be raped in front of you after attackers enter your house because you didn’t have a gun to protect her with?” The “no” answer overwhelming overtakes the “yes” from the first question. Of course the question matters. Polls can be rigged but the President-of-all-of-us shouldn’t lie as he repeats overstated polls as fact. He took the oath to proect the Constitution and serve all the people, not just the Democrat voter. The 2nd Amendment is in the Constitution and the SCOTUS has ruled to clarify the meaning. I understand it, why doesn’t he? A rhetorical question. It’s about money, votes and power; not children’s safety. That could easily be provided with trained, armed personnel in each school. Just like banks, only the contents in schools are more valuable. It’s obvious to everyone except techers and their unions. They won’t give up a dime that would come from next years’ paycheck in the form of a smaller raise to pay for the added security.

  4. Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background check to borrow a friend’s hunting rifle? In the original Reid bill (which was the pending bill when Pres. Obama issued his call to action), borrowing a friend’s hunting rifle without a background check would be a felony. That’s simply not true and you know it.

  5. Why are cars registered? Why are drivers licensed? Should we be against that? I am seriously trying to understand the opposition to registration of deadly weapons, especially automatic weapons, and licensing of owners of said weapons. Is it a fear of what the government might try to do? Do we really think the government can revoke millions of drivers licenses or confiscate millions of cars? Or is there another reason to oppose treating a gun like a car and treating a gun owner/user like a driver?

    • I wasn’t aware that the right of the people to keep and bear motor vehicles shall not be infringed.

      I oppose all these things for two reasons.

      First, a right with a string attached is easy prey; just ban the string. Refuse registrations, tie them up in red tape and bureaucracy, charge exorbitant fees, etc. It’s technically not a ban but might as well be.

      Second, the weapons everyone’s up in arms about comprise, at best, 1% of the total gun crime, let alone total violent crime. For every one child who dies by the gun, there are countless more who survive by it that go unreported.

    • Candor: Automatic weapons are already registered, and extremely difficult to buy.

      “Assault weapons” are not automatic weapons. They are all semiautomatic, and often weaker than typical hunting rifles. (e.g. the now-notorious Bushmaster is a .223, weaker than the average deer rifle).

      Also, you do not need registration or a license in order to buy a car; you need them to drive on public land. If you want cars & guns to be parallel, you would only be advocating licensing for carrying a gun on public land (e.g. carry-conceal permits) and registration of guns used in that way.

      • Hey, I’m game for an experiment. I’ll let you shoot me in the leg with a .22LR, if you let me do the same to you with the .223. Shouldn’t be a problem, with it being so much “weaker” and all…

        • It’s weaker than a huge majority of other rifle calibers you twat. Just because you are ignorant on the history of that caliber doesn’t make your .22Lr vs .223 comparison any less meaningless. And mind you the distances with almost any caliber shot inside those that happen in the shootings make any caliber way past the threshold of “lethal”. .223 is a weak rifle caliber that is meant for varmits opposed to 7.62×39 .300 blk, 7.62×51/308, 7.62×54, 30-06, 8mm, .303. 7mm, 243, 6.8×43, 30-30,. 6.5, and a alot other rifle calibers. Just because Tim’s right on how comparably weaker it is to other doesn’t mean he isn’t arguing it’s still not dangerous, but to retort to the media incorrect hype of it being one of the most deadly rifle calibers. But stay ignorant and rely on stupid comparisons for an insult.

    • Your question reveals the answer, “candor”. We don’t mind registering our cars because we have no reason to think the government would use that information to deny us the right to drive. Not so with guns. Most modern despots have used gun registration first, followed by gun confiscation, to disarm the public before going full-speed ahead with dictatorship. The 2nd Amendment was adopted because the founders knew that an armed public would prevent a despot from taking over and subverting the Constitution. Read the Federalist Papers!

      • I have often seen your argument “Most modern despots have used gun registration first, followed by gun confiscation, to disarm the public before going full-speed ahead with dictatorship.” used by opponents of gun control, and I must say it carries no weight — there are many laws in place in our system of government that would prevent that from ever happening. Tossing that in as a legitimate concern is disingenuous imho.

        • Yes, the “Gun Control” proponents keep saying, “It can’t happen in America.” Guess what… it already has. See New Orleans after Katrina (and New York State right now.)
          Gun registration has not always led to confiscation. (Canada gave up on registration after spending $billions and deciding it didn’t work.)
          However confiscation has always been preceded by registration.

    • The primary reason for registering cars is so the government can charge people money.

      As far as guns go I’m not against registration because I fear our government might turn on me. I’m against it because unlike cars we have minority of citizens that would love nothing more than to ban all guns and even more who could be easily convinced that a few plastic bits would turn a regular rifle into an assault weapon. If those against gun rights were more rational and would stop at things like registration and background checks then a lot of us wouldn’t have an issue with it.

    • Cars are registered to collect taxes!
      Also there is nothing in the US constitution that says anything about CARS being a basic human right. They aren’t. Self preservation is. If you don’t agree with the Constitution you SHOULD LEAVE. Honestly. We don’t want you here.

  6. Yes, the Church leaders are not qualified to perform mental or criminal background checks. The latest version of S. 649 provided for a 7 day borrowing period without a background check. It also gave family members the ability to sell each other guns without a check as long as it’s grandparents, parents, siblings, or your children.

    The NICS records might as well be top secret. The only thing that’s going to come out of there is a denial of a gun purchase. If you’re getting denied than you’ve already been considered mentally ill enough that your state and local officials have access to some of your records. Remember your right to privacy stops at my right to not be shot by a loon.

    But it was still defeated because of propaganda like this, including out right lies. If anyone wants to know what’s actually on the table go to govtrack and look at the bill, it’s not very long and it even has a table of contents.

    • You are a Constitutional scholar on par with our President.

      A seven day limit on borrowing a gun is an infringement.

      A prohibition on selling a gun to a friend without a check is an infringement.

      Where do you get the confidence that NICS records are top secret? Where to you get the idea that records of background checks are not kept? The government that said there were WMD’s in Iraq, that said “I did not have sex with that woman”, that said Benghazi was all about a video, etc., etc., etc.? It would be extremely easy to set up a mirror server so that all NICS requests are recorded to a separate site. Kinda like tapping a phone line and recording the conversation in real time. The FBI can truthfully say they don’t keep records on NICS while another agency like BATFE aggregates all of it.

      You may have the right to not be shot by a waterfowl but your right does extend to interfering in my life. You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. The problem is that I have left you alone but you trying to not leave me alone with your “oh so reasonable” proposals.

      • I have no idea why you would say that requiring background checks when selling guns to a friend is an infringement (I assume you meant “of the Second Amendment”).

        Not unless you also think that requiring background checks when purchasing from FFL dealers is an infringement.

      • A seven day limit on borrowing is well regulated. A check with the attendant requirements is the only proposal that’s proven to send guns into the hands of law abiding citizens while restricting access to criminals.

        The first amendment isn’t complete either, go shout fire in a theater and see what happens. Your right to self defense stems from the inalienable right to life. The core inalienable right is far more important than its offspring. That doesn’t mean no guns for self defense, it doesn’t mean an AWB, it doesn’t mean any of those extreme proposals. Just the one proposal proven to make it harder for criminals to get guns.

        finally, if it’s unconstitutional, then what’s the harm? pass it just like the unconstitutional abortion laws and let the supreme court hash it out, that’s their job. The legislators job is to reflect the will of the american people.

        Edit- Forgot one thing, Records have to be destroyed 24 hours after the transaction is decided. There is no room in the laws wording for shuffling the records around for storage elsewhere.

        • The borrowing limit is an infringement. If I want to loan my friend a rifle or shotgun for an entire hunting season, who are you to tell me I can’t do that?

          Your 1st Amendment analogy is flawed. I do have the right to yell “fire” in a theater but I will suffer consequences if anyone is harmed or endangered. Likewise, I can use a firearm any way I like but will also suffer consequences if anyone is harmed or endangered.

          We could argue about this till the cows come home and not reach an agreement. The problem with our national discussion regarding incidents like Sandyhook is that people driven by emotion and an urgent need to “do something” are taking the easy way out (which happens to blend nicely with their political agenda.) If we want reduce or eliminate the frequency of mass shootings, we need to address the cause and not the tool used. For if your goal is only to save kids lives, then we should be looking at swimming pools and cars because they have an 80% chance of dying by vehicle or drowning compared to 20% or less by firearm. Time for you to be honest about what you want: to save kids or ban guns.
          The Supreme Courts purpose is to sort out the nuances of Constitutional issues. We should not be passing laws in the name of “doing something” that reasonably intelligent people can see is not Constitutional. You’re right, legislators are to represent the will of the people. What do you trust more, polls or pocketbooks? Popular polls being quoted say people want “common sense” restrictions but the enormous surge in gun sales and background checks tell a completely different story. Remember what Mark Twain said, “There’s lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
          You’re confident records will be destroyed in 24 hours because there’s no room in the law for shuffling records around. I’m pretty sure there’s no room in the for running guns to Mexican drug cartels but that didn’t stop your Attorney General. There is certainly no room in the law for a hostile work environment but that didn’t keep Clinton from his happy ending. I think your trust and confidence in the government is seriously misplaced.

          • I think you misunderstand the harm principle. Our rights end where they begin to harm other people. We don’t get to use our rights and then get punished if someone gets hurt. We get punished because we didn’t have the right to do it.

            Also you are still misunderstanding the bill, which in the face of so much purposeful misinformation is understandable. The law allows for the borrowing of a weapon during hunting season, or a 7 day period.

            Quite frankly, I wouldn’t even allow for that. What is it everyone who knows a murderer says afterwards? “Oh my, it couldn’t have been them, they were so nice…”

            Allowing people to borrow weapons presumes they know the person well enough to know they won’t do anything illegal with it or that they know their whole history. I think that’s too high of a burden for the average citizen.

            Certainly if there were dissenting polls done in a scientifically rigorous manner, I’d have some doubts. But even FOX’s polling showed 80+ percent support for stronger checks.

            These background checks would in no way stop people from buying “assault” weapons unless they aren’t supposed to have any weapons at all. Other measures have the normal 50/50 polling distribution we’ve come to expect in the gun debate, and they would certainly account for the buying of weapons now when some of them would ban those kinds of weapons.

            Those bills are unconstitutional since the supreme court ruled in Heller, and incorporated it all against the states in McDonald. The supreme court does allow for background checks and the attendant funneling of transfers as reasonable restrictions.

            I’m really not in favor most gun regulations, the NICS system is pretty much the marquis system for keeping guns away from criminals. Making sure it can actually do that is common sense to me.

          • It’s amazing how you crazed gun nuts want absolutely no restrictions on gun ownership but want to restrict the hell out of a person’s right to vote… You psychos are such hypocrites. You see nothing wrong with the mentally ill, domestic abusers, gang members and terrorist legally owning guns? So if a hundred gang members walk into a gun show and bought out all of the guns with no checks or waiting periods, would that be a problem? What if they were followed by another hundred but these were Middle Eastern with turbans and beards. If the Black Panthers started to once again walk the streets with semi-automatics like they did in the 70s, would that now be ok? Or if the State hospital for the Criminally Insane released all its patients you’re saying that they could legally go straight to a gun show or purchase semi-automatics online unchecked? You people are completely and totally looney…Smh…

      • You sound like the prime reason why we need background checks. You red neck ignorant morons are really coming out of the woodwork… and swamps… and trailer parks. Sheesh! Weren’t you all supposed to secede? What happened to that petition to secede you neanderthals had going around? I will sign it. I will even work to get you dimwits the signatures you need… and I won’t even charge you. 🙂 You inbreds can all gather down in the swamps of Florida or the tip of Texas and float off into the freaking deep blue sea! Lol!

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  9. He got his vote, he said that is all I’m asking for, a vote, so why so pissy? He’s a lying sack of sh….. well you know what he is. Only childs are spoiled rotton and especially ones raised by their grand parents. Grow up and realize you don’t always get your way.

    • Red neck ignorant morons are about the only people who actually want the mentally ill and criminals to have unlimited access to guns. I think Big Bubba… (you’re not kidding about the name are you? Lol!) I think that you know if any background checks are put into effect, that your hillbilly a$$ will be the first to be denied. Sheesh, I thought inbreeding was illegal… No one told your parents?

    • There is approx. 350 million people in this country. So if you and your rural friends and family aren’t apart of a national poll, then you think it isn’t valid? Lol!

  10. Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background check to borrow a friend’s hunting rifle? In the original Reid bill (which was the pending bill when Pres. Obama issued his call to action), borrowing a friend’s hunting rifle without a background check would be a felony.

    That is a lie. Background checks would only apply to transfer of ownership.

    Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background
    check to buy a firearm advertised on the local church bulletin board?

    Yes! That’s exactly the kind of thing that Americans are wanting background checks to be expanded to cover.

    Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background check if it cost law-abiding gun owners $125? According to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment would “charge a $30 to $50 and up to a $125 fee, creating a new de facto tax on guns.”

    Tom Coburn is wrong. Everybody who’s ever bought a gun from a licensed dealer knows that you pay a fee for the background check. In my experience it’s been about $15 to $25.

    Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of expanded background checks if it weakens mental health privacy laws? According to Heritage, the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment “reduces existing privacy protection for mental health records relevant to background checks.”

    As is usually the case, Heritage is full of crap.

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  12. One reason why these polls are always skewed is because people like ME are far more likely to hang up the phone when these idiot pollsters call. What conservative libertarian type has time to deal with taking a poll? We are too busy working to pay for all the folks that are taking polls and voting for a living.

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  14. “Are 90 percent of Americans really in favor of requiring a background check to buy a firearm advertised on the local church bulletin board?”

    Yes, we want background checks to be done when permanently transferring weapons between family members, as well as between friends and especially between acquaintances.

    Do you actually know if your second cousin or your neighbor or a friend or that guy at church has a drug or drinking problem? Has a psychological issue? Is under a restraining order? Was previously convicted of a felony?

    No. You don’t.

    All new sales require a background check and a 4473 filed with your local dealer. Gun show and private sales should be no exception.


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  17. The mentally ill, domestic abusers, gang members and terrorist should not be able to legally own any gun. Nobody is talking about borrowing a gun, only OWNING. Sheesh! And no, you shouldn’t be selling a gun on the church bulletin board.Stop trying to twist things so the dumbos out their get even more confused Mr. “I am a puppet for the gun makers who care only to make a profit and can care less if a psycho guns down children or a husband blows his wife’s brains out”. At LEAST 90% of ALL decent hard working, law abiding and reasonable people agree that we as a responsible society, MUST keep these weapons out of the hands of the deranged and evil people.

    • Seem like you’re the only one “confused” here. Under federal law, currently, mentally ill people, people involved in criminal activity, and domestic abusers are already prohibited by law from possessing or attempting to possess a firearm.

      Another law is not going to prevent them from breaking that law.

    • Also, Manchin DID require a BGC to loan a firearm to a friend. Also, because YOU believe selling a gun on a church bulletin board is wrong, doesn’t make it so. How about a church raffle of a gun? We are still a constitutional republic, have a few freedoms left. Believe it or not, the Bill of Rights and Constitution were written to protect the interests of the minority from the dictates of the majority. The odds of you, your husband, your friend of being shot is infinitesimal. Lifetime risk (lifetime!) is one in 7,000. You have a much greater risk of stroke (1 in 29) or being struck by a vehicle (1 in 700)

    • Since the ban, and SAFE act, all assault weapons that were used, used them to defend themselves or home…. Only 1 crime has been committed since the ban fell through… I’m a gun enthusiast, I like a well made firearms, that I can hit a 10 inch target from 600 meters, it’s not just point and shoot… You have too almost put yourself in a trans, it’s not only relaxing, but blows off steam as well. and it’s just the fact of the matter, they took away our constitutional right. we are a free country? you can’t assemble a militia I in NY, we now have the stop and frisky law, so an officer can stop you at anytime for no reason… what happened to our unalienable rights to life LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS?

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