Does gun lobby trump public opinion?
April 17th, 2013
11:45 AM ET
5 years ago

Does gun lobby trump public opinion?

Washington (CNN) - Even though polls indicate it's supported by the vast majority of Americans, the gun-control proposal with arguably the best chance of Senate passage may very well go down to defeat on Wednesday.

The Senate is scheduled to begin voting Wednesday afternoon on a number of proposals to reduce gun violence, including a bipartisan yet controversial agreement on expanding background checks proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania. Their proposal would extend current background checks for gun buyers to include gun shows and internet sales.

While Democratic leaders expressed optimism they'd get enough votes to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment, a CNN tally of senators indicates the measure is probably in major trouble of passing, unless several undecided Democrats and Republicans - mostly from conservative states - throw their support behind the amendment.

Just about every national poll conducted since December's horrific shootings by a gunman at a Connecticut elementary school, which left 20 young students and 6 adults dead, has indicated widespread support for increased background checks. That includes a CNN/ORC International survey released last week that indicated 86% of the public supports some form of background checks that are not currently required by law for gun sales. And 86% of Americans questioned in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday said they supported background checks for gun sales on the internet and at gun shows.

The two new polls were also in-line with past surveys by indicating no partisan divide on the question, with the vast majority of Democrats, independents, and even Republicans supporting increased background checks. The ABC/Washington Post survey also indicates that 86% of gun owning households support the proposal.

President Barack Obama's been a vocal advocate for passing gun control legislation, and he's touted public opinion as he pushes Congress to act.

"If our democracy's working the way it's supposed to, and 90% agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy, you would think this would not be a heavy lift," Obama said last week.

But the powerful National Rifle Association, the leading advocate on gun rights, fiercely opposes the Manchin-Toomey compromise. And that influential opposition is a counterweight to public opinion.

And the ABC/Washington Post poll also highlights that activism and engagement may be a factor in this political battle. About one in five gun owners questioned in the survey say they have at some point contacted a public official to express their views on gun control. That number drops by half for those in non-gun households. Nineteen percent of gun owners say they've contributed to an organization engaged in the gun control issue, with just 4% of non-gun owners saying the same thing.

Another factor may be public concerns that increased background checks would lead to a federal registry of gun owners and their firearms, which according to the CNN/ORC poll, is opposed by 55% of Americans. And two-thirds of those questioned in survey said that if the government did keep a list of gun owners, it would eventually use that list to take guns away from people who own them.

To allay such concerns, the Manchin-Toomey proposal includes language to bar the creation of such a federal registry. Manchin, Wednesday on the floor of the Senate, said attempts by gun control opponents to portray his bill as a universal background check measure were lies.

CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report

Filed under: Gun control
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Greg in Arkansas

    Fancy this, in Arkansas, they (GOP) passed a law that requires me to show a picture ID to vote, yet I can still buy a handgun at the lcoal flea market without even showing a library card......priceless.......guess it is all about the money (Remington Arms is located in AR).......NOT about safety...

    April 17, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. Larry in Houston

    this question & this article sounds like a "Cafferty" Question – CNN, are you sure you guys aren't hiding him in an office somewhere ? lol

    Does the gun lobby trump public opinion ?
    To answer the Question, (short answer) YES – ask the N.R.A. they've got the "resources"

    April 17, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "Owning/driving a car is NOT SPECIFICALLY PROTECTED under the Bill of Rights. Neither is owning a house. Both of which require some combination of REGISTRATION, TAXES, and/or INSURANCE."

    Your ownership of both real and personal property is absolutely covered and protected by the Constitution. Claiming otherwise just highlights that you have zero idea what you are talking about. Both rights are not absolute and are subject to certain limitations. The same is true of the 2nd: it does NOT confer an absolute right and the right it does confer is subject to reasonable limitation. Universal background checks and a national registry would not constitute unreasonable limitations under any existing SCOTUS precedent...and yelling crazed slippery slope arguments claiming tah a registry automatically means national confiscation of all guns won't hold up in court.

    April 17, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. 82nd ABN VET


    "There are a lot more of us who oppose gun control than there are citizens that support it. "

    No, there truly truly isn't. You are delusional and living in a comfortable fabrication that feeds your confirmation bias. These polls use appropriate methodology to randomly sample the public and then shove the raw data through appropriate statistical tests...rather simple ones in the grand scheme of things order to extrapolate to the public at large and test the reliability, variance and power of the result. They don't often produce results that 90% of the public support something. Yuo're simply wrong and sticking you fingers in yoru ears whle screaming "lalalalalalala."


    Thats funny. Because anytime I get a phone poll I just hang up. I wonder how many others like me there are?

    So the polling data is flawed, mostly due to the increase in liberals that are willing to take such a poll. I however find it an invasion of my privacy for them to call me during dinner time or on the weekend.

    Just look at the polling data that Mitt Romney had saying that he was a shoe in for the election. Turned out his data was wrong.

    Never trust polls. Only trust the end result.

    April 17, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. Really

    That is why we live in a constitutional republic. So the mob can't rule. Frustrating that a right cannot be taken away isn't it. But keep trying.


    And yet the Patriot Act was enacted (and renewed) with nary a whimper. Seems some "rights" are more important than others.

    April 17, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. Wake up People!

    Duhhhh, YES!! The NRA and the gun lobby are the p!mps of the GOP.

    And you FOX-lite have been instrumental in assisting them. Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done.

    April 17, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Borderless

    No. While the gun lobby is more extreme than the genreal public, it's the "we have a right/need/desire to arm ourselves to the teeth" mentality of the general public that allows the gun lobby to be so effective.

    April 17, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Thats funny. Because anytime I get a phone poll I just hang up. I wonder how many others like me there are?"

    And I wonder why you think that's not accounted for in the statistical analysis. Ah yes, because you don't understand. Glad we cleared that up.

    April 17, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. just sayin

    funny how the leftists want some rights subject to mob rule yet when the voters rejected gay marriage, suddenly that was a problem. can't have it both ways lefties. you are tying yourself up in knots with your own hypocrisy.

    April 17, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    Does public opinion, mostly on the side of the Dem socialists, who want to take control of America, and have their way with America, trump Constitutional rights?????????

    April 17, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. rs

    "Anyway, the short answer is yes. Public opinion in and of itself does not dictate policy. "
    Quite so, the radical loons at the NRA do. Heaven forbid in America, citizens have a voice.

    April 17, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  12. Bet203

    Leave it to a liberal pundit (sorry, "journalist") to write this, yet when the same logic is applied to other issues- ie: Obamacare, "what's best for the nation" and "think of the disenfranchised" is all we hear. Gun control is like the security measures at the airport- pretty much useless and intended to make the public "feel" safer. Gun control does nothing to make the world safer. Guns in the hands of citizens is what REDUCES violence, not increases it. There is AMPLE evidence and studies done that prove this point, but they are routinely ignored. Want to be safer from gun violence- start getting more people armed and carrying. It's not "intuitive", but it has been proven to be true.

    April 17, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. JeffersonLives

    NO, but the "reported" public opinion poll information is phony and the result of left wing media crafting. Gun groups polled their own members and found completely opposite results. Geez, I wish I could just say that because I want to be King of the world...that all I have to say is "well polls indicate that 90 percent of people support it", while I have the media cook up some fake polling numbers......Anyone who believes these polls is extremely gullible. And the media who is putting them out there is committing a federal crime.

    April 17, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Independent

    You people obviously don't know how to read!!! I as many other Americans are for background checks but NOT for a universal registry. The article CLEARLY states that the MAJORITY of people are AGAINST a gun registry (55%). Also, you people act like there is no background check already in place which there is. Can it be strengthened, absolutely!!! So stop saying the majority of Americans want a gun registry because you are WRONG!!!! And another thing, these pulls are extremely skewed anyway, I would bet it is much closer to 75% don’t want a gun registry if you pulled ALL Americans and not just a select few democrats!! Regardless, I am in favor of background checks just not a universal gun registry. If you people don't like it MOVE, these are our bill of rights and they have been around for a couple hundred years and there is nothing you can say to change that!!!!

    April 17, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. Peoples State of Illinois

    It is hard for Democrats to call terror what it is, because they share the same goals.

    April 17, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. rs

    just sayin

    funny how the leftists want some rights subject to mob rule yet when the voters rejected gay marriage, suddenly that was a problem.
    Funny, more than 50% of Americans polled have supported Gay marriage for more than a year now...

    April 17, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. California

    Depends on where you're getting your public opinion from. The local liberal coffee shop? Then probably.

    April 17, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. rs

    Rick McDaniel

    Does public opinion, mostly on the side of the Dem socialists, who want to take control of America, and have their way with America, trump Constitutional rights?????????
    Rick- please explain how background checks interfer with the second amendment-otherwise shut up- your arguments make no sense.

    April 17, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. Len

    Voter I'd is needed but background checks for guns that kill are not needed. Wow , unreal!!!!
    America: Where guns are Sacred and Life is worthless.

    April 17, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. Guest

    The radical loons at the NRA that are in charge of the "gun lobby" are simply standing by our constitution and bill of rights, are you surprised that most citizens are in support of our constitution? Of course you are, you're a liberal.

    April 17, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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